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3 Misconceptions about low back pain

3 Misconceptions about Low Back Pain

Written By: Dr. Michelle Millner, PT, DPT

Low back pain is estimated to affect up 80% of the population at some point during the course of a year. It accounts for more lost work time that any other musculoskeletal condition. When something is this much of a problem there are bound to be misconceptions floating around. Here are 3 common misconceptions:

#1: Back pain is caused by heavy lifting.

While it is true that performing a lift with faulty body mechanics can cause back pain, lifting with good form is very unlikely to be associated with a low back injury. Back pain can be caused by a number of factors involving poor mechanics with any activity, muscle strength imbalances (such as lower crossed syndrome in Dr. Kochoa’s last post) and poor motor control of the trunk muscles. Studies show that most people with a back injury can return to lifting with safe, sounds body mechanics after they have been treated for the biomechanical, soft tissue and functional limitations and receive proper education on body mechanics and appropriate strengthening exercises.

#2: I should stay in bed and rest until my back feels better.

In the case of severe back pain, a day or two of rest may be helpful, but prolonged bed rest is associated with very poor recovery. Bed rest and immobility will cause cause changes to the muscles and nerve firing patterns that activate the muscles. The overall all result is further decrease in strength and stability of your spine, neither of which will assist in recovery from injury. Proper instruction in safe, proper body mechanics and staying mobile with pain reducing activities are important factors in preventing acute back pain from becoming chronic back pain.

#3: I need an x-ray and/or an MRI.

Diagnostic tests are important in picking up serious pathologies like fractures, tumors, cancer and serious spinal cord compression or injury. They are highly sensitive which means that many “abnormalities” may be picked up. Research in diagnostic testing, however, demonstrates that many types of findings on an x-ray or an MRI(such as disc bulges and herniations) are not correlated with the cause of back pain. Some researchers report that if you took a group of people who have never had back pain, it is very likely that between 50-75% of them would have some kind of abnormality on their scan. That is not to say that x-rays and MRI’s are not warranted when certain criteria are met, but MRIs and x-rays can often be avoided with a thorough consultation with a medical professional skilled in musculoskeletal diagnosis.

If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices our located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit with us.

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