The facts and the fiction of back pain explored by osteopath Sue Bunce, Worthing

Did you know that back pain costs the country more than cancer and diabetes treatments combines. Quite a shocking fact, but it just goes to show how common it is.  In this blog we look at some of the common myths which surround back pain and try to answer some of them.

  • Back pain is common and normal- almost everyone will experience it at some stage in their life, but thankfully most of us will find a solution for it and recover. Over 85% of people will recover over the course of 3 months and a high proportion will feel a lot better in 2 weeks.
  • We rely too much on scans which in fact can show very little. Scans do pick up a lot of things, but in reality they are truly important in only around 5-10% of cases of back pain. In fact it is said that around 40% of people without back pain will be seen to have a bulging disc on a scan.
  • Rest is not best- there is a lot of evidence, unless the pain is particularly severe in the initial stages, that rest is not best and moving is the key to recovery. Keep active and stay positive is the ideal remedy.
  • The worse the pain the more the damage. This is also not necessarily true. Lots of factors influence pain and pain will vary from person to person depending on coping strategies. Often people in pain will avoid doing activities in case of causing harm and associate activity with pain. This can also make things worse and prolong recovery.
  • Surgery is often needed. This is in fact untrue and only a small percentage undergo surgery for back pain. The results post-surgery are often no better in the medium to longer term, than non-surgical intervention like manipulation and exercise.
  • There is one single perfect posture to suit all. This is not true. What works for one does not work for another. Moving is the key and staying fit and active. Sit less and move more keeps a back healthier.
  • Avoidance of activities like lifting and bending long term will help. Whilst it is important to lift and bend well, avoiding activities is not helpful. Learn to strengthen your spine with exercise and do not avoid using it. Avoidance behaviours negatively impact on recovery of back pain.
  • Sleep will influence pain. Yes sleep and a lack of it will influence not only pain but your ability to cope with it too. Try and get a good night’s sleep to help reduce pain.
  • Mood can influence pain. Yes this is true. Negative behaviours and low moods can influence pain. Being in pain can also trigger worsening mood, so seek help fast and rid pain as soon as possible. Keep positive and stay active.
  • Persistent back pain cannot get better. This is wrong. We often see people who have had years of back pain recover with treatment. Often the chronicity is a result of different contributing factors like lack of exercise, poor posture, bad habits, poor coping techniques, stress, work routines etc. Addressing these and the muscle and joint issues will often lead to pain relief and hopefully elimination too.