The Truth About Back Pain

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In this age of information, it is easy enough to learn about anything you could dream of. Within seconds, Google will direct you to resources on how to fix your toaster, tips to run a marathon, and how to fix your back pain all ready and waiting with just a few key strokes. It’s less straightforward, however, to know which of this information is valid, reliable, and accurate. Many of us turn to the internet for information about health, rehab, and fitness and this content is notoriously fraught with inaccuracies, oversimplifications, vested interests, and shysterism. A google search for “Back Pain” returns 1.2 Billion results. The plethora of information in combination with the noise of misinformation makes this search less than useless.

Here we’re offering 5 valid, reliable, and accurate truths about back pain:

  1. Back Pain is Common and normal!
    80-90% of people will experience back pain in their lifetime and although it can be annoying and highly distressing, it is quite normal and most episodes resolve fully and quickly within 6-weeks without any treatment at all.

  2. More pain does NOT mean more damage.
    There are many factors that can influence how much pain we experience: sleep, fitness, stress, emotional state, mood, previous experience can all change our pain experience and so each individual feels pain differently than others. Most often, even severe pains can respond well to simple movement and help from a health care professional.

  3. Scans are rarely needed.
    Scans (i.e. MRI, X-ray) are only required in about 2-3% of cases of low back pain. It is often thought that a scan is required to diagnose back pain and guide treatment, but the research suggests most of the time there isn’t a specific structure that is linked to an episode of back pain. A visit to your health care provider can help determine your best course of action.

  4. Avoiding activities and prolonged bed rest are NOT helpful.
    In the first couple of days of a back pain episode, it makes sense to stay away from aggravating positions and activities, but it’s important to start to gradually move and resume normal activities as soon as possible. The research strongly suggests that prolonged bed rest and avoidance are not only unhelpful but can be harmful in the long term.

  5. Exercise is GREAT and SAFE for back pain.
    Aim to gradually resume normal movement and exercise to help resolve your back pain. The type of exercise you choose doesn’t seem to matter much - pick something you enjoy and gradually restart! Expect to feel some soreness when you first start out; which is the feeling of your muscles and body getting used to working a bit and it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. Remind yourself regularly that you can be sore but safe. 

Exercise!

This information accurately summarizes the latest research on how to best treat back pain. Back pain can be well managed on your own by following these 5 tips.