Back Pain - Some Common Misconceptions


Em Batger

It’s estimated that 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their life. As a physio I see clients with back pain almost every day with varying presentations from those with a dull background ache to those with sharp, intense, debilitating pain.

In today’s world many turn to google for answers for just about everything, including how to manage their back pain. The problem is that while there is some great information, there is just as much conflicting bad information which leaves people confused and often fearful. They have read that movement is bad, you shouldn’t lift weights, bending over will make your pain worse and all back pain needs surgery. This is quite simply not the case and so instead of writing a blog about the anatomy of back pain (which can be rather boring) I’ve decided to touch on, and clear up, a few of the common misconceptions around back pain.

Movement is not bad.

Our spine is designed to bend, twist, flex and rotate. Long gone are the days when back pain clients are prescribed bed rest, sure it may make sense in theory, moving hurts so if I don’t move my pain will go away? Unfortunately this is a short sighted management plan that will only result in further stiffening of the soft tissues and increased fear avoidance. The longer you avoid movement the harder it is to start moving again. 

Every case is different and I’m certainly not suggesting a blanket treatment approach for all back pain but with 99% of my back pain clients my goal is to establish pain free movement as soon as possible. For some this may be lying down gently rocking their knees from side to side combined with some basic trigger ball work to try and release muscle tension, while others who can tolerate more may be working into a childs pose position or graded exposure to bending movements. The one thing that holds true is that movement is medicine and in my opinion it plays an essential role in the recovery of back pain.

Once you have back pain, you will always have back pain

No, this does not have to be the case. Living with pain is not normal. The key is to find the underlying cause. If it’s muscular, why are those muscles going into spasm? If there is an underlying disc problem then let’s re-build the core muscles, ensure the pelvic floor is doing its job efficiently and restore safe movement patterns. Every client will need a tailored approach and the recovery time frame can range from days to months but no one should be resigned to the fact that they have to live with back pain. Sometimes a new perspective can be the turning point for some client. If you keep doing the same training program, seeing the same Physio, doing the same rehab exercises; but you still have pain… maybe it’s time to shake things up. 

Lifting weights is bad for your back

Absolutely not, in fact studies have shown great benefits from resistance training in people with back pain, as long as you practise good technique and don’t work above your abilities. Weight training is not only good for developing a strong back, but a targeted program will activate all the smaller surrounding muscles that are equally as important such as your core, gluteals, hip flexors, adductors and abdominals. I would always advise checking with a Physio or trainer if you are at all unsure about what you should be doing in the gym. 

Back pain is a hugely broad topic and there are so many reasons why people suffer from back pain. My take home message to anyone struggling with back pain would be, find a physio that you trust, that listens and that is actually helping you get up and get moving!!!

Em Batger

Please note: Em's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic, please consult your healthcare professional.

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