Back pain is such a common ailment that it’s no surprise that everyone has something to say about it. You might receive advice from family members, coworkers, even a stranger who notices you wince when you’re reaching for an item on a high shelf at the grocery store. While some of the common knowledge about back pain can be helpful, there are also plenty of misconceptions that are widely shared. Let’s clear up some of the myths — and tell some truths — about back pain.
Myth: Bed rest is the best cure for back pain
Truth: While it a little lie-down might make you feel more relaxed and ease your pain somewhat, staying in bed can actually make your back pain worse. It also sets you up for more pain down the road. For many people, a lack of core strength and general muscle weakness contribute to back problems. While some rest is okay (especially if you’re dealing with an acute injury), seeing a qualified physician to get a proper diagnosis and a course of action for treating your pain is much more helpful.
Myth: If pain isn’t severe, you don’t need to see a doctor
Truth: People who experience low-level chronic pain — pain that’s there, but not unbearable — may decide to just tough it out. But even if your pain isn’t intense, if you have back pain that persists for more than two weeks it’s a good idea to get a professional opinion. You might not think it’s serious (and you may be right), but it’s vital to ensure the pain isn’t a symptom of something worse. Also, people who decide to just bear with low-level chronic pain can develop unhealthy habits as they manage the pain themselves, from taking OTC pain medications for an extended period of time to walking, sitting, or standing in a way that will contribute to future issues. It’s your health! Err on the side of caution.
Myth: Exercise is bad for back pain
Truth: Staying active actually can help prevent back pain, by keeping your muscles strong and supple, as well as helping you maintain a healthy weight (heavier people are more likely to experience back pain). That said, it’s important to exercise in ways that don’t exacerbate pain. A doctor can help you sort out what’s helpful from what may hurt, as well as how much exercise is appropriate for you. Working with a physical therapist can also help you learn how to maintain proper form while exercising.
Myth: A firm mattress will help relieve back pain
Truth: Though a firmer mattress may provide relief, when it comes to easing back pain it’s less about what you sleep on and more about how you sleep. Whether you normally sleep on your back, side, or belly, positioning yourself so that your back is supported is more likely to help than changing your mattress (it’s also much less expensive!). Click here to check out our post about getting better sleep when you’re suffering from back pain.
Myth: Back pain is just part of getting older
Truth: While many causes of back pain — like degenerative discs or osteoarthritis — are associated with aging, being older shouldn’t mean having to accept chronic pain. There’s a wide range of treatments that are available (both nonsurgical and minimally invasive spine surgery, should it be needed). You should be able to enjoy life without chronic pain, whether you’re an actual younger or just young at heart. Pain isn’t something you should be content to live with.
Is chronic back pain driving you crazy? A proper diagnosis is the first step in finding relief from pain. Call the Spine Institute Northwest today at 888-712-0318 to learn more about how we’ve helped Canadian patients stop living with pain.