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Strained Back Myths

Reality Check Your Ideas about Neck and Back Pain


Updated May 06, 2014

Strained backs tend to generate all kinds of fears and misconceptions - especially around prognosis.  "I have a bad back."  "Once in back pain, always in back pain."  I hear such statements a lot, though I don't always agree with them.

Let's do a reality check on some of these ideas. You may be pleasantly surprised with what you learn.

I have back pain, so I must stay in bed and rest.

In the acute phase of a back injury, resting can be very useful to calm down the pain and avoid further damage to tissues. However, the acute phase generally lasts only a few days. Long term, activity modified for your condition will: .

There is nothing I can do about the pain. I just have to learn to live with it.

Each case of back pain requires individual solutions. However, there are a tremendous number of resources available for the pro-active back pain sufferer. If the pain is debilitating and/or interferes with your daily activities, seeking professional solutions sooner rather than later is crucial to long term healing. Being in pain takes a lot of energy, is stressful, and has negative effects on the immune system. For many, alternative health modalities are very effective in relieving pain.

I am told the pain is "all in my head".

All pain is real, even if a physical cause cannot be found. This is so because of the way the nervous system processes information associated with painful stimuli. For those in chronic pain, pain management specialists may help create a program with several components to keep things under control and allow ADL to continue.

I will need to see a chiropractor every week in order to control the pain.

During the beginning phases of treatment, your chiropractor may likely encourage you to come for adjustments several times a week. The number of required treatments to see results should taper down over time. If a is maintained diligently, healing will progress faster. Once your condition has stabilized, you may only need to see the chiropractor once a month or less to maintain the positive changes effected by the treatment and home program.

I can’t do my favorite activities such as hiking or gardening anymore.

Certainly, with back pain, one must develop the ability to listen to the body and respect it’s limitations. But don’t give up hope! With a well designed, diligently followed exercise program that includes core conditioning and flexibility exercises, many people will find that it is possible to get back to most or all of their favorite activities.

And just as important, using good body mechanics when doing your favorite activites can go a long way toward preventing more pain.

I am active and have a lot of muscle mass, so I won’t get back pain.

Physical activity is the way to go when preventing and healing back injury. However, habitual patterns of body usage often predispose an individual to back injury or pain. The balanced work of muscle groups throughout the body is a key to avoiding pain. Without balance, a build up of tension occurs in one area, causing weakness other areas. A complete exercise program, including strength training and stretching for all muscle groups, is often quite effective for pain and injury prevention.

An MRI is necessary for diagnosing the cause of back pain.

While MRIs are good diagnostic tools for determining nerve root damage and damage to the intervertebral disk, they are mainly used after conservative treatment has proven not to be effective, and surgery is being considered as the next step. In general, a physical examination and medical history by a qualified medical professional will reveal the cause of back pain.

I have back pain so I will need surgery.

Only a very small percentage of people who suffer with back pain will undergo surgery. Research shows that about 90% of back pain goes away on its own. There are only a few instances where back surgery would be done without your voice in the decision-making process. These are medical emergencies such as a broken neck or if you have symptoms such as weakness in the legs that gets progressively worse and/or bladder and/or bowel incontinence caused by the back problem.

I need a doctor to tell me what to do about preventing and managing back pain.

Doctors provide value by diagnosing and prescribing. Additionally, reliable sources of information on various approaches to pain management exist on the internet. Look for the Hon Code symbol when evaluating a medical information site. Alternative medicine solutions tend to be side effect free and effective - the key is working with someone who is certified and/or licensed in their field, and with whom you enjoy an excellent rapport.

There are a number of at home therapies for both back pain and neck pain you could try for most back problems. These include, ice, over the counter pain medications, massage, reducing your activity, and other things.

Being overweight doesn’t really contribute to back pain.

On the contrary, extra weight compresses the spine, and squeezes the intervertebral disks, making them prone to herniation, and degeneration. Also, people with large bellies are more prone to anterior pelvic tilt, which leads to lordosis, an abnormal condition of the spine.
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