I thought today I’d share and dispel some common myths around back pain that could stand in the way of your recovery…. When you’ve been unlucky enough to suffer back pain will battle postural issues, those back-pain myths can do more harm than good if you believe them! Maybe you recognize some of these? Are they contributing to your current situation?
8 Myths About Back Pain
- It’s not safe for me to lift and bend
- Poor posture is the main cause of back pain
- Surgery is my only option
- It’s dangerous to return to work when I have back pain
- My spine is really fragile.I must not do anything physical
- My back really hurts so there must be some serious damage
- Back pain means I have to rest up until the pain goes away
- I need a lot of medical testing and investigation to tell me what is wrong with my back, neck, shoulders
I can happily tell you from personal experience having experienced the effects of back pain at times in my life, the more informed you are, the better you will be able to manage back pain and recover well. And while it may not seem a possibility right now, you can get better.
Don’t let Myths Control Your Life / Pain…
Don’t let myths lead you down the road to persistent pain. I created this guide with the aim to help you be more informed, so instead of feeling helpless, you can be in control. Choose to be one of the many people who choose to take control and recover faster.
Recover By Taking Control And Being Proactive…
You can recover by being proactive: daily stretching exercises, mindfulness of how your body feels, wearing a posture brace, gentle exercise such as walking, swimming, yoga, Pilates, inversion table therapy, rest when needed as well as improving your mental outlook. You may enjoy taking my posture quiz and test your general posture knowledge
1) Focus On The Good News
For the majority of us, back pain heals in a relatively short period of time. In fact, I can say your spine is stronger than you may realize. It is actually one of the strongest parts of the body as it is protected and covered by ligaments and muscles for maximum support.
For these muscles and ligaments to do their job properly, movement is essential – which means exercise! Regular movement in the form of walking, stretching, gym workouts, swimming, Pilates and yoga to name a few all go a long way to keep you from getting stiff and sore, as well as helping you feel much more optimistic about life.
2) What To To
Yes, I can hear you groaning. Are you kidding exercise? I hate exercise I hear you say! Seriously though, keep moving. As I mentioned above.
Even though you may feel discomfort physically and you have to change your day-to-day activities at first, it’s important to keep doing what you normally do. It’s okay to use painkillers to help you if you need to.
And when I mention exercise, it doesn’t need to be hard and intensive. Gentle walking, swimming, Pilates, yoga and stretching exercises are some of the best choices. It’s an individual choice to find the best fit for your needs.
3) What Not To Do
Depending on the degree of discomfort you feel – you may think staying in bed and resting up is the best option…. Don’t! For the first day, or few days it is okay to adapt or modify your activities so that you can get back to everyday life and business later on. It’s actually good to try and keep your back and muscles as supple as possible. Staying in bed all day, not doing anything and not moving does more harm than good
4) When To Seek Immediate Medical Help
Physical pain can be scary, especially when it doesn’t resolve itself after a while. We can feel quite helpless and not quite sure which direction to turn to to get help. Luckily, these days there are plenty of professionals with experience to help you on the road to recovery. It will take you some time to find the right person to help you get better. If the following symptoms are ones which you are feeling, it’s a good idea to get professional help immediately. Some of these are:
- Difficulty walking or holding objects
- General feelings of pins and needles, numbness or weakness in both, or either leg or foot
- numbness around the groin and buttocks in a saddle pattern
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain that worsens over six weeks and is constant even at night
- Incontinence or difficulty urinating
- An accident that may have been sufficient to fracture your spine
- Back pain that started when you were feeling unwell from an infection or illness
5) Sciatica And Its Effects
Sciatic pain can be dull or achy, but also sharp or stabbing. This is pain caused by irritation to the sciatic nerve which typically starts in the lower back. It then radiates down into the buttock and usually down one leg, sometimes into the foot and toes. Sciatic leg pain can be worse than back pain surprisingly.
It can affect how you walk, sleep, sit and exercise. Do see your Dr if your symptoms are severe or persistent or are getting worse over time. Some of the symptoms you may experience with sciatica are numbness, pins and needles in part of the leg or foot, pain can be worsened when you cough or sneeze or weakness in your leg or foot.
Again it’s really important to keep as active as possible when you are experiencing sciatic symptoms. I have found using a foam roller helps enormously and I rarely feel the effects any more.
I’m not sure what caused the sciatica to happen in the first place. I woke up one night with my right leg completely numb and feeling like a heavyweight completely unconnected to me. It was horrible and painful!
My Pilates instructor gave me some stretching exercises, as well as instructions on how to use the foam roller down the side of my leg. It was amazing what a difference it made.
Most evenings now I foam roller my shoulders and leg muscles-back front and sides for about 15 minutes.
It’s quite relaxing and as well as helping my sciatica, I sleep a lot better. Go on, give foam roller workout ago you just may be pleasantly surprised….
Here’s me – the tallest- with my Tuesday morning Pilates class.
6) Should You Get X-Rays Or MRI Scans?
Its rare to need an x-ray or MRI scan if you are experiencing back pain or poor posture. Unless of course the pain is so incredibly severe and disrupts your life completely. The millions of dollars spent on x-rays and scans every year benefits only a tiny percentage of the population with back pain.
Interestingly enough, many people with No Pain at all will show some kind of positive findings on investigation such as general wear and tear, disc bulges or disc degeneration. This is an example of how putting a strong focus on tests and test results can lead to unnecessary anxiety and stress for you.
Over Treatment Is Far Too Common…
In the back pain world, over treatment and over testing is all far too common and unnecessary, ending up in your wallet being lightened considerably. It can be a very expensive process indeed. Not all damage leads to pain and not all pain leads to damage… And remember that your level of pain doesn’t equate to serious damage or injuries, it all depends on your pain threshold.
7) Surgery For Back Pain-When Is Surgery Useful?
Most of the time pain clears up within a few weeks allowing you to resume your normal daily activities. That’s much more helpful if you can manage your problem by being active, and having a better understanding and grasp of what pain is and what it is there for.
Pain is our body telling as there is a problem we need to address. Don’t ignore it. By being informed and educated you will be able to manage pain yourself through wearing braces, exercises, medication, swimming, stretching, yoga, practicing muscle relaxing techniques and the like. Roughly about 1% of back pain sufferers will ever need an operation.
When back pain is completely affecting your quality of life, then possibly an operation may be useful. There are many avenues to help yourself before taking such a drastic step.
8) Recovery Timescales
Surprisingly enough the more active you are, the faster your recovery will be. This means regular daily exercise or stretching using the various avenues I have mentioned above. Recovery can be anywhere from a few days, week or a couple of months.
9) Back Pain Exercises
Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic wand here which I can wave say do this exercise and you will be cured, there are no miracles. Research consistently shows that keeping active with gentle exercises such as stretching, walking or swimming will help you recover faster than lying in bed.
Here are some great stretching exercises I use regularly:
10) Is It Ok To Take Painkillers?
In the beginning, yes, it’s okay to reach for those painkillers to take the edge off. I certainly do and did. I don’t need to be a martyr. They have been found to be beneficial in the early stages. However, when the injury has healed, even if there is still feeling of pain or soreness, it’s been found pain medication does not maintain its effectiveness. Unless you take higher and higher doses which has nasty health implications, even to the point of addiction and I wouldn’t want that for you.
Simple over-the-counter medicines such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen prefer work well to reduce acute back pain. If you have other health problems, that’s a good idea to check in with a health professional to get some advice on which painkillers to take and for how long. Follow instructions to! Don’t take more than prescribed!
Using a little self massage in the form of an electric handheld massager which you can use at home is a good option. You can target the painful areas and let the machine get into muscles and loosen them up. Another option is to use heat packs which penetrate deeply into muscles, relaxing them.
11) How Soon Can I Return To Work?
If you have taken time off work due to back pain in any form, the golden rule is returning- the sooner the better! You’re far better off returning to your previous activities and gradually building up your endurance. Waiting until the pain has completely gone isn’t advisable. Make sure you let your employer know what has happened and how you are feeling.
Doing your work keeps things in perspective and it’s actually good for your physical and mental wellbeing as you aren’t at home dwelling on the discomfort. Ask your colleagues for help with the difficult tasks, such as things that require heavy lifting or are awkward to manage.
12) How Is Posture And Back Pain Related?
Poor posture is thought to be a really common cause for back pain. In fact, it is probably the number one base cause of back pain which is exacerbated by the following factors, heavy lifting, a sudden movement, an accident or physical illness. For many people it puts strain on the body, which can cause discomfort and may hinder recovery.
I hear you say, “but there are lots of people who have terrible looking posture but they never complain of back pain. How does that work”?
In fact, research supports the argument that poor posture doesn’t mean you are stuck with back pain. And if you do have back pain, this evidence shows that there is a good chance that it’s not because of your poor slouching habits. I guess that’s a relief isn’t it.
It may be pain that is affecting your posture. Your altered posture may be due to avoiding pain, and in trying to straighten up, this causes you more pain.
Good posture is very important on every level for of our general well-being and mental health. It’s important to be aware of our body and to take care of it as best we can.
Poor posture may not be the reason your back started hurting, but, it may be provoking course now. Let’s use common sense and look after our backs. If you need to sit for long periods, you should take frequent stand and move breaks. Keep a mental note of how you are sitting and make sure you are not slouching….
How To Reduce Muscle Strain
Interestingly, studies have shown people carry themselves in a way that makes them seem taller, and more confident, have higher pain thresholds. Adopting good posture can improve your body awareness and confidence that your back is a strong and resilient structure. Adopting good posture alleviates muscle tension, reducing strain on other soft tissue areas and joints. It doesn’t necessarily address the root cause of your pain, but, it does go a long way to helping you stand straight and tall.
Just like starting new exercises or sports, correcting your posture may well feel uncomfortable at first because your body has become so used to standing and sitting in a certain way. Good posture is one huge step to help your back in the long-term. Now, get up and start moving!
13) What’s Your Posture Plan?
Developing a keen awareness of your everyday posture is one of the most effective ways you can become more confident in your back. You may need to relearn how to sit on a chair for example. You may need to learn how to stand and walk properly.
- Make sure your chin isn’t poking forward and is tucked in slightly so that the back of your neck feels lengthened. Feel yourself growing taller as you move. Don’t give yourself a double chin though 🙂
- Imagine a string going from your feet up through your spine out the top of your head and aligning you into a straight and tall position.
- Many of the muscles that begin at the neck finish around the shoulder blades. Check the posture or position of your neck as that can affect how the muscles around your shoulder blades feel.
- Gently draw your shoulder blades down and inwards towards your spine without exaggerating the movement.
- When you stand evenly distribute your weight between the front and back of your feet. Often we can put most weight on either the front, the back or the sides of our feet. We may not be standing with the weight evenly distributed…
- When you sit or stand, aim to keep a slight inward curve in your lower back.
- Stand in front of a mirror and check if both of your shoulders are the same height. If not, correct both shoulders so they are level.
- Be patient. It can take time for improvements in your posture to feel normal. After all, it has taken a long time to get out of alignment, it will take you a little time to get back into alignment. You need to be patient to build up proper muscle endurance.