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Common Back Pain Misunderstandings

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Back Be Nimble Newsletter - June 2002
There are many misunderstandings about the causes and appropriate treatments for back pain. Unfortunately, these misunderstandings can often lead to unnecessary stress, anxiety and even behavior that can make your back pain worse.

In this issue of the Back Be Bimble newsletter we provide some clarification about some of the more common misunderstandings regarding back pain:

Misunderstanding: Lower back pain can lead to paralysis if it's not treated

The spinal cord comes off the base of the brain, runs throughout the neck and middle back, and ends before the lower spine. Because the spinal cord ends before the lower spine, and there is a large amount of space for the nerve roots in the lower spine, even serious conditions (such as a large disc herniation) are very unlikely to cause paralysis.

Misunderstanding: My back pain will probably get much worse as I get older.

Some people are concerned about their back pain progressing and potentially becoming disabling as they get older. However, back pain is actually less common in people over 50 years old than in 30 - 50 year olds. This is especially true for pain that is generated by the disc, such as a disc herniation or degenerative disc disease. Therefore, if you can find a way to manage your pain and maintain your daily activities, your back pain may actually start to get better as you get older.

Misunderstanding: The spine is delicate and easily injured.

The muscles, tendons and ligaments that surround the spine provide a great deal of strength, flexibility and support for the spine. Therefore, in general a healthy spine is not easily injured. Activities that can harm the spine include lack of physical fitness and flexibility, poor posture and straining your back, and other generally unhealthy habits, such as smoking and poor nutrition. In most cases, by the time back pain occurs, there has been a summary of things gone wrong over many years which later leads to instability and a more easily injured spine.

Misunderstanding: There is a standard treatment for most types of back pain.

Compared to other medical conditions, there are relatively few standardized approaches to treatment of back pain problems. Spine specialists from various areas of expertise will often disagree on the diagnosis and most appropriate treatment, and health professionals within a specialty will also frequently have different opinions. A few diagnoses are relatively straightforward (such as tumors, infections and fractures) and there is generally more consensus for these conditions.

Misunderstanding: Rest is the best way to avoid more back pain

While a short period of bed rest may help reduce acute pain, in general progressive doctors advise against more than one or two days of rest. In fact, resting and general inactivity can cause more pain, as lack of activity leads to muscle atrophy and other harmful effects, which in turn can create more pain. Many people with back pain tend to overprotect their backs and, as a result, are more prone to injury and pain due lack of conditioning.

We hope that a better understanding of common back pain misunderstandings will help you better manage your health. At Back Be Nimble, We bend over backwards to help your back be nimble again...

At Back Be Nimble, we bend over backwards to help your back be nimble again!

Best Wishes,

Dr. Brad Lustick
CEO and Ergonomic Supervisor

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