Myths are often rooted in some truth. The same holds true for myths about back pain. There are plenty of differing opinions on back pain, but how do you know which sources are credible? It’s important to follow the right advice to make sure you don’t make your pain worse.
Myth 1: You Should Stay in Bed
This myth stems from many years of thinking that bed rest was the best way to treat back pain, but we have found that this is one of the worst things for the healing process. Multiple studies have shown that spending too much time sedentary will do more harm than good, and will not help you recover.
Try to stay active with light, non-weight bearing exercises. Jogging on an elliptical, cycling on a stationary bike, swimming some laps in the pool or walking on a treadmill are great ways to get some activity. Use your phone or a Fitbit to remind you to move every 30 minutes. This gets the blood flowing, and starting slow should not worsen the pain.
Myth 2: Getting a Massage is Always a Good Idea
Massages are a fantastic way to release tight, stiff muscles. However, when your muscles are already in spasm, massage can further aggravate the areas around the spine, which can lead to more problems. When it comes to massages, often is better as long as you are mindful of your pain areas.
If you’re having a severe spasm, have your massage therapist work on everything except your back. We recommend getting a professional massage at least once a week to make a difference. If you feel that you need more treatment, try a do-it-yourself massage. With DIY massage, you can do it on your own time, and it’s free.
During self-massage, extending the back entirely and gently rolling out tension in the muscles should be the goal. To do a DIY massage, lay on a foam roller on your back, lift your back up with your feet on the ground, bend your knees and roll up and down. Go slow as you roll out the tension gently. Avoid putting a tremendous amount of pressure directly on the pain site and don’t spend lots of time on a single area.
Myth 3: Being Overweight Causes Back Pain
Carrying extra weight can make more work for your back, but many of the people we see at Phoenix Spine Center developed back pain after they lost over 50 lbs. How do you explain that? The key to avoiding back pain is strength, posture, and reducing inflammation. Strength comes through exercise. But it’s hard to exercise with a bad back. Inflammation is another matter. Scientists are increasingly pointing out a strong relationship between our whole body inflammation and what we eat. Changing the types of food you eat may be able to reduce your inflammation and joint pain in general, including the pain in the back.
Work at strengthening your back. By using muscle confusion and improving your core strength you will get the best results, and minimize the chance of injury. Also, make sure to eat a nutritious, vitamin-rich diet so that you have all the nutrients you’ll need to keep joints and bones healthy while reducing inflammation.The Fat Resistance Diet by Leo Galland, MD is a great resource for a good anti-inflammatory diet. Use your scale to monitor your progress, but the real focus needs to be on how you feel.
Myth 4: Back Pain is Inevitable
Many of us are going to get back pain at some point in our lives. However, there’s a lot you can do to prevent painful episodes and make yourself more comfortable every day. Having good posture is important for spine and back health. Back pain is often caused by lack of movement or moving in an abnormal way, and neither of these causes are completely resolved by maintaining good posture.
Maintaining good posture is a great practice to start, but it should not be your sole preventative or healing measure. If you want to know more about how posture can help prevent your back pain we recommend reading 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back by Esther Gokhale. A few other important aspects to preventing episodes of back pain are staying active, strengthening your core muscles, and changing positions often.
The bottom line is that not every fact about back pain that you come across is accurate. Finding what’s right for you, not what’s right for other people is an ambitious task. Consulting educated and experienced physicians is the best way to get the facts on back pain and start the treatment that is the most efficient for your back pain.