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Low back pain is the number one reason for disability worldwide and is the most common musculoskeletal disorder physical therapist treat.  Unfortunately, much of the information about low back pain circulated is out of date and incorrect.  This misinformation sadly causes many people to suffer too long.  We hope this article will help clear the air and get you back to the golf course, slopes, or gym.

Myth 1: You need complete rest

For a long time, it was believed that complete rest was necessary to allow the body to heal.  However, we now know that complete rest can actually delay healing and prolong recovery.  It may be necessary to scale movements, modify programs, and decrease intensity for a short period.  But, the body needs movement, increased blood flow, and load in order to heal.  We like to say recover, not rest.  

Myth 2:  You need an image 

There are two things that consistently show up in every low back pain guideline worldwide.   Number one: individuals with low back pain need to exercise.  Number two: low back pain should not be imaged.  Disc degeneration, bulges, and arthritis are all normal MRI findings.  You have wrinkles and grey hairs on the outside as you age and these are your internal wrinkles.  Fifty percent of people have “abnormal” MRI findings by 30 and at age 50 that number jumps to eighty percent.  Therefore, it would be abnormal to have a normal MRI finding. 

Myth 3: Pain equals damage 

Pain is extremely complex and is based on our body’s perception of threat.   When our nervous system decides whether to send down a pain signal, it does not just take the actual tissues into account. Our beliefs, past experiences, environment, stress, sleep, and diet all add into the equation.  For example, when we have more stress or poor sleep, our body perceives increased threat and we can therefore have increased pain.  On the other hand, if your relationship is good, finances are great, and you’re on vacation in Cabo, you’re probably not going to feel as much pain. 

Myth 4:  Good and bad posture exist 

There is no evidence that one posture is better than another or that certain postures will guarantee pain.  What we do know is that the body does not like to be in any one position for too long.  So, we like to say your next posture is your best posture.  If you are sitting for a long time, get up and walk.  If you are on your feet for a while, take a seat.  

Myth 5:  Back Pain is Caused by a “Weak Core”

Many individuals get dozens of exercises to strengthen their core and provide stability around the spine to decrease their low back issues.  There is no research directly correlating a “weak core” to increased low back pain.   We aren’t saying that core strengthening can’t be a piece to the puzzle,  it’s just never been shown to prevent low back pain.   Research shows general exercises and strength exercises such as the deadlift are just as effective. 

We hope this article has helped dispel some common myths.  If your back pain is preventing you from hitting your next PR, your ability to perform daily chores, or you just want to learn more about low back pain; head over to www.onwardrichmond.com and schedule a visit or 15 minute phone consultation.