With millions of Canadians suffering from back pain, it’s unsurprising that nearly everyone has an opinion about how to relieve or even cure back pain. It can be helpful to learn about the experiences of people who have had a particular treatment or who have a similar issue to your own, but you’re also likely to hear advice that’s medically dubious. Here are some of the most common myths about chronic back pain, and the truth behind them.
The Myth: Cracking your back helps relieve back pain
Reality Check: Some people find it very satisfying to crack their back, often because the sound implies a change has occurred. Medical evidence suggests that any pain relief from cracking your back comes not from the actual “crack” but from the stretching that you do to achieve it. The cracking sound is simply escaping air. If someone offers to crack your back for you, don’t do it! Depending on the actual cause of your pain, this kind of amateur manipulation could actually increase your discomfort or lead to further injury.
The Myth: Exercise and stretching will always help with back pain
Reality Check: Exercise and stretching are only appropriate therapies for back pain that results from certain kinds of problems. Back pain that stems from posture issues, a sedentary lifestyle, or being overweight can often be ameliorated by increasing your daily activity level. However, when back pain is a symptom of a disease or an injury, it may not be appropriate to try to manage pain through exercise or stretching — done improperly, it could actually worsen back pain. If you are dealing with chronic back pain, it’s especially important to have a proper diagnosis and to consult with a physician before you begin an exercise program (even a mild one). That way, you can ensure that your activities are helpful, not hurtful.
The Myth: Chronic back pain always leads to surgery
Reality Check: With the exception of acute injuries that require immediate intervention, back surgery is always the last course of action taken to relieve back pain. That’s not the same thing as saying that relieving back pain always comes down to surgery. There is a wide range of strategies that can be used to manage pain — including lifestyle changes, spinal injections, and regenerative therapies — and these will come first. If these more conservative treatments fail to bring about lasting relief, surgery may then be indicated. It’s important to know that the kinds of back surgery available today are not the same as those you might have heard about in the past. At clinics like the Spine Institute Northwest, minimally invasive surgical procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis. These offer a much smaller incision and a shorter recovery period than earlier forms of spine surgery.
The Myth: Back pain always indicates a serious underlying issue
Reality Check: Especially when you’re searching the web, it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of dire prognoses and symptom descriptions of serious diseases. This kind of self-diagnosis is more likely to lead to stress than solutions. If you are experiencing back pain that has persisted for more than a few days, that is growing worse, or that has changed in character, don’t play DIY doctor — consult a physician for a diagnosis. The Spine Institute Northwest offers a range of options for Canadian patients; you may even qualify for a free MRI. Call us at 888-712-0318 to learn more.