Back pain (or any pain!) can be really scary and really painful. Whether you’ve done something seemingly innocuous, done a little more than normal or have had your pain for years, this blog is here to reassure you about a few worries that are likely to be flying around your head.
Pain is rarely caused by damage.
Pain your body’s protector that comes way before any damage happens. It’s a really good way of your body making you take action (rest, change positions)! We used to think pain was directly related to what was going on in the tissues (muscles, bones, ligaments) but we now know this to be a FAR more complex process involving your nerves, brain, spinal cord, past experiences, beliefs…I could go on. This knowledge has been a real game changer for us – helping us to understand how to help you get better, more quickly. Be reassured that backs are really strong structures that are designed to bend under load in all directions.
Pain doesn’t mean harm.
Pain is telling us how sensitive the tissues and pain system are. There’s rarely any benefit from pushing through pain but it’s entirely safe to feel a mild to moderate amount of pain when exercising. Definitely discuss this with your physio as it varies from person to person.
Scans will rarely show the cause of back pain.
Scans are really useful for a small percentage of people with certain signs and symptoms. Scan will often report lots of scary sounding things like ‘degenerative disc disease’, ‘spondylosis’, disc herniations that are actually very common in people without symptoms.
Back pain is not caused by a weak core.
This myth has taken some serious traction since some research done in the 2000’s that was somewhat misinterpreted. In fact, people with pain often tense their ‘core’ muscles as a protective response. It’s helpful to be generally strong in your back and ‘core’ but by no means necessary for your pain to improve.
Back pain is not caused by poor posture.
Pain MAY be exacerbated by certain prolonged postures and it may be useful for you to change your postural habits in the short term to allow your back to become less irritated but there is no scientific link between certain postures and pain. There’s no such thing as ‘good’ and bad’ posture. The idea of an upright posture being ‘good’ came from the military and society when upright deportment was deemed to represent strength and high societal standing.
Please let us know what you think or chat through any of these facts with your physio.
Written by Nic Trinder
O’Sullivan PB, Caneiro J, O’Sullivan K, et al. Back to basics: 10 facts every person should know about back pain British Journal of Sports Medicine 2020;54:698-699.