by Chris Cleaver, Physiotherapist Low back pain is an extremely common condition. 84% of people worldwide will experience back pain at some point in their lifetime. Although back pain can be very painful and worrying, it is very rarely dangerous. Back pain is one of the most common conditions we see in the PhysioEdge clinics, so I wanted to point out that there are common myths and misconceptions surrounding the condition.
  1. My back is vulnerable to injury
  False– your back is one of the strongest structures in the body. The vertebrae are among the densest bones and their role is to give support to your body and surround the Spinal Cord. Surrounding the vertebrae, we have extremely strong, thick ligaments, and connective tissue. Over the top of this, we have multiple layers of muscle and fatty tissue. All this tissue gives a vast amount of protection to our back. In fact, we are far more likely to have serious injury to our little finger than our spine! 2. Pain means damage False– Pain occurs when the body and brain perceive damage (or the potential for damage) in the body. This is our body’s protective response and makes us stop or behave differently in order to protect ourselves. Pain can act as a warning sign. Danger messages from our back and other tissues in our body travel via our nervous system to our brain. The brain uses this information to make a decision as to whether we need protecting, and whether or not we experience pain. We know this decision is more complex than just the information received from the tissues. In fact, our pain experience is influenced by lots of different factors, and is why pain can be very individual to the person experiencing it. 3. It’s not safe to exercise with back pain. False– Physiotherapy and Exercise is the number one most effective treatment for low back pain. It is a particularly important tool for helping low back pain because movement helps to reverse the physical changes driven by inactivity, for example, reduced stamina and flexibility.  It also helps to calm down and desensitise the nervous system. There is no evidence to suggest that one exercise is better than another, so pick something you enjoy and adapt it to your level of pain tolerance. Remember, even if something is painful to do, it is unlikely that you will do damage! 4. Back pain gets worse with age False– lower back pain affects people of all ages. There is more of a link between back pain and a sedentary lifestyle, obesity and low mood. So get moving and exercising 5. MRI scans tell me what’s wrong with my back False– Scans allow us to see structural changes within the spine, but we know in persistent back pain, seeing this isn’t relevant. Recent studies have shown that in people with no lower back pain, there is evidence of slipped discs, nerve impingement and degeneration. There are also a multitude of studies to suggest that there are none of these findings in people who have had a long history of back pain. Knowing this proves that pain is more than just structural and there isn’t a direct correlation between pain and damage within the spine.  It involves many of the factors discussed above. We recommend that you see your Physiotherapist if you have lower back symptoms if you haven’t already. Doing this will allow us to guide you through the correct pathway to manage your symptoms.  Take back control and start managing your back pain today! No-one needs to live with pain!

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