August 10

Lower Back Pain Myths: What Are The Facts?

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Lower back pain can be debilitating.

Also known as "low back pain" (LBP) in our industry, you would be hard-pressed to find an injury or condition with as many myths surrounding it.  This has to do with the fact that lower back pain is a very common issue that up to 90% of adults will deal with at some point in our lives.

From work to play, lower back pain is frustrating greatly impacts our day-to-day lives. There are a lot of myths we need to debunk when it comes to understanding your back pain – let's address them.

10 lower back pain myths

Myth 1:

LBP is usually a serious medical condition.

Fact:

Despite some potential “red flag” issues that manifest in the low back, the vast majority of LBP episodes (>95%) are not serious.

Myth 2:

LBP will become chronic and continue to worsen later in life.

Fact:

Most incidents of lower back pain improve (most within 4-6 weeks) and do not worsen as we get older.

Myth 3:

Chronic LBP is always related to structural damage.

Fact:

Although tissue damage may result in LBP, other factors such as a negative mindset, fear-avoidance behaviour, negative recovery expectations and poor pain-coping behaviours are more strongly related.

Myth 4:

Diagnostic imaging is always required to determine the cause of LBP.

Fact:

As mentioned above structural damage does not correlate with LBP.  Therefore imaging (x-rays, CT, MRI, etc) is often not required as they do not determine prognosis or improve recovery.

Myth 5:

Pain due to exercise or movement is a warning sign that damage is being done to the spine and that you must stop or modify the activity causing the pain.

Fact:

Gradually progressed exercise and movement (in every direction!) is safe and healthy for the spine.

Myth 6:

Poor posture when sitting and standing and poor lifting technique causes LBP.

Fact:

It is not possible to predict lower back pain based on spinal posture during sitting or standing or based on technique during lifting.

Myth 7:

Having weak “core” muscles causes LBP and hence strengthening the “core” protects against future lower back pain.

Fact:

A weak “core” does not cause LBP.  In fact some people with LBP often overtense their “core” muscles.  While it is good to build strength and stay strong, it is also good to be able to relax those muscles when they are not needed.

Myth 8:

Repeated strain on the low back leads to tissue damage and “wear and tear.”

Fact:

Movement and loading of the spine is safe and actually builds tolerance to better withstand future demands.  But remember, just like anything else, those loads must be built up gradually!

Myth 9:

LBP must be treated with strong medications, injections and surgery.

Fact:

Effective treatment for low back pain includes: education that promotes a positive mindset and is tailored to the patient’s needs, engagement in meaningful physical activity and exercise, participating in social activities, healthy sleep habits, optimum body weight, remaining in employment. A trained physiotherapist is an excellent resource for all of the above!

Myth 10:

Physiotherapists won't understand my lower back pain.

Fact:

Our physiotherapists are trained to complete a full assessment of your condition, including risk factors and pre-existing conditions, and provide treatment based on your specific needs. There is no one-size-fits all approach to dealing with LBP, and our specialists are committed to your health and wellness!

Sourced from: P O’Sullivan, JP Caneiro, K O’Sullivan, I Lin, S Bunzli, K Wernli, M O’Keefe Back to Basics: 10 Facts Every Person Should Know About Back Pain. BJSM. 2019.


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