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Low Back Pain Myths vs. Facts

Low back pain can be very complex and frustrating for many people. It is the leading cause of disability in the United States and around the world and comprises one third of all worker's compensation disability. Here are some myths and facts that can help people manage their low back pain effectively.

Myth: Bed rest is the best treatment for back pain.

Fact: While rest may be helpful in the initial few days after injuring your low back, it is important to resume your normal activities as quickly as possible. There is strong evidence and research to suggest that resuming your normal work activities and hobbies will help to aid in your recovery. You may need to modify your activity, since it is important to keep the pain within a tolerable amount during activity. The increase in your activity should be gradual and as your symptoms lessen. In contrast, staying in bed is actually associated with higher levels of pain and poorer recovery.

Myth: I can't lift heavy things if I have back pain.

Fact: As stated above, it is important to be able to resume normal activities. Gradual progression in lifting may be necessary to improve tolerance. Making sure that you are lifting with good body mechanics is important to help decrease strain on the spine and will also help improve your tolerance for lifting objects. After an acute onset of low back pain you may want to start with lifting light objects and progress to heavier objects as tolerated.

Myth: I need imaging (x-ray, CT scan, MRI, etc.) to determine what is wrong with my back.

Fact: There is no evidence to support diagnostic imaging is related to pain. If you had a traumatic incident, imaging may be used to rule out a fracture. However, non-specific low back pain can be diagnosed and treated by a physical therapist without imaging. A physical therapist is trained to evaluate and determine if there are any red flags for more sinister underlying causes that are need further medical attention.

Myth: Pain equals damage to the body.

Fact: Pain is very complex and can be influenced by a number of factors including stress levels, emotional responses, previous history of trauma, society etc. Just because someone has pain does not mean that there is damage to the tissues of the body associated with it.

Myth: I have to always sit up straight and use good posture to avoid low back pain.

Fact: The spine is meant to move and bend in all different directions. While sitting with good posture may be beneficial to help decrease pain for moderate periods of time, sitting in an upright position for too long may also cause increased pain. Your body is meant to slouch and bend and it should be able to do so without causing increased pain. It is important to be able to move into and out of various positions and postures without causing increased pain.

If you have questions about low back pain, and how physical therapy can help you get back to moving pain free, please contact Dr. Eric Broadworth at 616-965-1159 or via email at eric@fuelphysicaltherapy.com