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BY DR. ARNAN SISSON
July 17th, 2023
Over the years, there have been dozens of myths and misconceptions surrounding the topic of low back pain, and no matter how common sense the truth may be, folks still choose to believe the myths. In turn, that belief really affects their ability to get away from back pain, away from surgeries and away from all the medications, and get back to doing the things they love most. So today, we’re going to tackle some of those common myths on low back pain and put them to rest. This will be the first of a two part series, so be sure to check back next week for the remaining points!
The first and most common myth is that acute back pain is short term. If you check out the most recent studies, they show that almost everyone who experiences back pain has a 50 percent chance of it coming back. That’s just the nature of back pain; it’s recurrent. So, it’s important for people to know when seeking treatment for back pain, they figure out what caused it in the first place. For instance, what postures and movements affect it the most. Then they can acquire a good wellness program and gain the tools they need to address those problems and keep the pain from coming back as often and hurting as much. Anyone that says back pain will never come back is lying to you, and that’s why being prepared and ready to control it when it happens is so important.
Another myth commonly seen in my profession as a Doctor of Physical Therapy is ultrasound and electrical therapies being a proven method to assist in recovery of pain. Some folks who’ve had physical therapy in the past may have seen a technician or a doctor put a wand on a muscle with some ultrasound gel. This technique shoots sound waves through the muscle. They may have also used electrical therapy, which is basically the E-stem packs doctors place on patients that shoots an electric current through them. Looking at the literature, the evidence is just simply not there to support them as recovery tools, yet many clinics have accepted the use of ultrasound or electrical therapies because it’s easy and allows the physical therapists to treat a lot more patients. If you’re currently thinking of purchasing an E-stem pack, are currently using one or are focusing on ultrasound therapy as your main form of treatment for back pain, I would suggest to pull back from it. If anything, these treatments are only masking your pain, not dealing with the root cause of it. Focus on the type of treatments that actually have been proven most effective such as postural modifications, exercise medicine and some hands-on, soft-tissue treatment.
The last myth we’ll unhinge in this week’s column is that back pain is caused by inflammation or arthritis. In most cases, this is absolutely not true; exceptions include those with rheumatoid arthritis, who can have a flair up of pain caused by inflammation, but typically, back pain is caused by postural stress. I have so many folks come in with back pain that just don’t know what could have caused it, and that usually tells me that it’s likely postural related. At the clinic, I don’t worry about using E-stem or electric therapies, I get to the root of the problem by looking at the posture that caused it to begin with, and that’s what folks should look at when working on themselves at home, if they’re ready to relieve the pain that’s holding them back. Inflammation is really a side effect of the pain, not the cause. As for arthritis, I can’t even count the number of patients I’ve had so far this year determined to get a knee replacement, but in many cases, we were able to cut the need for the replacement down to where they could wait several more months prior to getting the replacement or avoided the procedure all together. Now that’s not to say that some won’t need a knee replacement, I actually highly recommend it, when and if my patients are responding well to physical therapy. However, arthritis is not necessarily linked to pain. There was a study done which looked at people with severe back pain and also at people with no back pain at all. The study found that the people with no back pain had similar findings as those with the severe back pain, such as arthritic changes, bone spurs, narrowing of the nerve channels and slipped discs. Those results show you that arthritis is a normal part of aging; anyone’s back over the age of 30 are going to have some arthritis. If you’re considering surgery, hold off and try a more conservative approach first.
Understanding these common myths and knowing that they’re myths will help you on the road to getting better quicker and keep you away from undergoing those unnecessary and costly surgeries, injections and pain pills, and get you on the right track to recovery.
If you have any questions, submit it through our contact portal. There, you can also check out some of our free E-books with tips to help with that back pain, as well as look through the some of our other free services such as 15-minute phone consultations and discovery sessions. And, if you don’t have access to a computer or internet, call up our office at (804) 493-3256
That’s it for today everyone, remember movement is medicine!
P.S. If you need a little more guidance, feel free to click here to download a completely Your Free Back Pain Guide that has some great tips to help you today!