You know when you have back pain, everyone and their dog wants to give you advice. Like being pregnant but without the little bundle of joy at the end of it.
I know people mean well, but there are some common misconceptions out there which we hear A LOT and though said with the best intentions, really won’t help you at all. In fact, some can make it worse.
So, read on, and we’ll do our best to debunk some of the myths surrounding back pain, so you can say a silent ‘thanks but no thanks’ the next time someone tries to bestow their wisdom upon you.
Probably the most common ‘advice’ people hear. I think back in the olden days, this was what we were told to do when in fact, during extended periods of inactivity, muscles can weaken and grow stiff and ligaments and tendons can also lose flexibility and leave you more vulnerable to further injury.
Just like us, our tissues (including our intervertebral discs) need nutrients to stay healthy. By moving, we promote good circulation which in turn delivers nutrients and oxygen to the tissues to help them repair. Incidentally, this is also a reason why sports massage is so great, but that’s another post in itself
2. Ice the pain
Brrr, as I’m writing this it’s November and about 4 degrees outside so the thought of ice on my back is painful right now! To be fair, even if it was 30 degrees today, you can bet that as soon as the ice touches your skin, your poor achy muscles will immediately tense against the chill.
For a back which is already tense, and potentially in spasm, we would recommend heat rather than cold. A warm bath (now that’s a nice thought) or hot water bottle can help the muscles relax and reduce any spasms. Cold is better used for inflammation, when you need to reduce swelling.
3. Don’t exercise
Au contraire! Now obviously this depends on how acute your pain is and the severity of your injury but when you can, and within pain-free limits, exercise is one of the best things for back pain. The weaker your muscles, the more vulnerable you are to pain and further damage. Keep your body mobile, and work on activating and strengthening your deep core muscles to strengthen your spine’s support network.
4. Once your back has ‘gone’ you’ll always have back pain
If you don’t act to help yourself, then maybe, yeah. But nobody should just accept that back pain is something they must live with forever. Most back pain can be helped by strengthening the core and back.
One study found 80% of patients with back pain had weakened muscles in their back. It’s not known whether the weakness was a cause or result of their pain, but by strengthening these muscles, and working on maintaining this strength it’s possible to significantly reduce pain or eliminate it altogether.