Chronic back pain is an extremely common issue and one of the most frequently used reasons for taking leaves from work or school. This pain can affect anybody, at any age. You need not be too old to get a bad bout of back pain.
Even though it is quite common, there are a lot of myths doing the rounds about chronic back pain. Here, we cover 15 such myths and why they’re not as true as you think.
15 Myths About Chronic Back Pain Busted
1. Chronic back pain indicates a damage that will last forever.
Fact: You might be experiencing the back pain for weeks without any break. It might recur after a certain period. This does not mean the damage is permanent or alarming; such chronic pains are usually due to a muscle strain or issues in the joint. All of these can be remedied through slow and steady physical exercise and healthy eating.
Remember, constantly recurring pain might even be related to issues like heart disease or diabetes. Keep yourself strong in all ways possible. Avoid junk food, smoking, alcohol, or any other unhealthy addictions.
2. You always need an MRI or scan to figure out the problem.
Fact: First, a good physician who can read your history and symptoms right is more than enough to figure out your problem. Such scans can be a last resort, and your doctor will know when to opt for it.
3. The abnormalities that pop up in your scan have to be treated immediately.
Fact: All advanced imaging techniques such as MRI and CT scan will show you how your body changes with age. The abnormalities that pop up here might just be your body adjusting to old age. So no, indications in the scan will not always cause you pain or disabilities and you need not worry about them.
4. Surgery is the only way out of back pain.
Fact: This isn’t necessarily true. The treatment differs on a case-to-case basis. The reasons for your back pain can vary and so can the severity. Based on these, your treatment options change. Lately, surgeries are used as an option only if prolonged intensive treatments involving physiotherapy and rehabilitation do not work.
5. You need bed rest to cure chronic back pain.
Fact: This is partially true. With a damaged back, you definitely need rest and some more. Resting will give you immediate relief but might weaken your muscles and bones. So if you want to be up and about, leading a happy life, rest a bit, do some back-strengthening exercises, and make your way to recovery. Just avoid any exercises or postures that might further hurt your back.
6. Exercising or standing up often will make things worse.
Fact: Almost everybody who begins to workout will get a bout of back pain at the start. But don’t worry. This is probably because you’re using muscles you’ve never bothered till date. Keep at it for a week or so and notice how your back pain will go down. If the pain is really bad, go for temporary medication or supplements. Take good, healthy food to strengthen your body for the exercises.
7. I shouldn’t get back pain because I’m physically active every day.
Fact: Exercising constantly will definitely reduce the risk of back pain due to weak muscles, bones, and body. However, you’re still susceptible to exercise/sports-related injuries. You might get overly enthusiastic and wear and tear your body. So take things slow and make your back (with the rest of the body) get slowly adjusted to your workout.
8. My parent(s) suffer from back pain. I guess I’ll get it too.
Fact: This is partially true. Many studies have linked back pain to genetic predisposition. You might be more likely to get lumbar disc problems if an immediate family member already has it.1 But, then again, this won’t apply to everyone and all types of back pain. If you follow a healthy lifestyle and stay active, the risks might be minimal.
9. Thin people do not get back pain.
Fact: Lesser or balanced body weight reduces the risk of back pain; your muscles are capable of handling your body weight. Obesity does make things worse and applies a lot of pressure on your back.2 But this doesn’t mean thin people are immune to back pain. Back pain can be genetic, with no relation whatsoever to weight. And underweight can actually cause fragile backs. So, yeah, we’re all in this together.
10. Sitting upright can reduce back pain.
Fact: Some suggest that you need to sit straight, especially if working at a desk job throughout the day, to avoid back pain. This isn’t true. Your back needs as much rest as any other body part. We don’t want you to hunch over. But lean back on your chair and curve your lower back once in a while. This will stretch the muscles and keep the pain away. Preferably, keep a small pillow to support your lower back on your chair.
11. Lifting heavy objects will increase back pain.
Fact: This holds true if you’re lifting things the wrong way. If you lift heavy objects without sitting down and exerting all the pressure on your arms and back, you’ll definitely hurt your back. Instead, sit on your heels and get up as you lift; this will put the pressure on your knees and keep your back safe.
12. Hot/cold treatment can cure back pain in the long run.
Fact: Sometimes, you get a lot of relief by keeping a hot or cold pack on your back. However, this is a temporary cure. It does not cure your pain in any way. While you can keep this to help you get by every day, make sure you cure the root cause of the pain with a targeted treatment.
13. Chronic back pain at a young age will worsen with age.
Fact: This holds true only to an extent. If left untreated, any pain can last forever. But back pain can be cured with the right kind of treatment. It doesn’t go up with age. Also, some back pains occur only after a certain age, once you reach your 30s. If it isn’t age-related, like disc degeneration, your back pain is definitely curable.
14. It is good to sleep on a hard mattress/floor for chronic back pain.
Fact: There’s no ideal, perfect mattress that will suit everyone. Each individual’s body reacts differently and wants a particular kind of bed. So even though some studies show that people sleeping on medium-hard mattresses experienced less back pain, it might do you no good. Experiment, see what your body needs, and go for it.
15. Chronic back pain will resolve on its own.
Fact: This isn’t completely a myth. Depending on the cause, your back pain might resolve itself. The pain can go missing for years and suddenly pop up. So don’t risk it with your health. Get yourself diagnosed and follow a lifestyle that will keep you safe.
|↑1||Patel, Alpesh A., William Ryan Spiker, Michael Daubs, Darrel Brodke, and Lisa A. Cannon-Albright. “Evidence for an inherited predisposition to lumbar disc disease.” J Bone Joint Surg Am 93, no. 3 (2011): 225-229.|
|↑2||Deyo, Richard A., and J. Edward Bass. “Lifestyle and low-back pain: the influence of smoking and obesity.” Spine 14, no. 5 (1989): 501-506.|