Low back pain is an extremely common condition, with almost all of us experiencing low back pain at some stage during our lives. Low back pain is often short-lived with most people returning to normal activities relatively quickly. The knowledge, attitudes and behaviours individuals express towards their low back pain has been consistently shown to affect the management and prognosis of the condition. It is therefore vitally important to highlight some of the common misconceptions surrounding low back pain, because knowledge is power when it comes to low back pain!
1. The back can ‘slip’ or be ‘out of place’
The term ‘slipped’ disc is an inaccurate description – discs are held firmly in place by ligaments, muscles and vertebrae and can’t ‘slip’. Disc protrusion/herniations occur when part of the outer shell of the disc weakens and tears, allowing some of the internal contents of the disc to protrude out. If this occurs, the internal disc contents can place pressure on spinal nerves leading to pain and a number of other symptoms. What is interesting is not all disc protrusions/herniations cause pain. In fact the majority of adults will have a least 1 disc protrusion/herniation, with the majority experiencing no pain or symptoms at all!
The term ‘out of place’ is somewhat true, although not entirely. The vertebral joints have to cope with a lot in day-to-day life which for the most part they do an exceptional job at it. Asymmetric or uneven load through the vertebral joints day after day will eventually lead to some joints moving too much and some not moving enough. The joints which are not moving will require more effort by the surrounding muscles to get it to move. Think about unscrewing a bottle cap that has been done up too tight, the muscles of your hand will have to give a lot more effort to get the cap to move compared to if it was screwed on loosely. The muscles surrounding and moving the stiff joint can only do so much before they start to get sore and tight, pulling the spine into positions which aren’t optimal for function. Chiropractic treatment aims to restore proper joint movement treating the cause rather than the symptoms (muscle tightness, pain). Manipulation and mobilisation is used to get the stiff joint moving, rather than ‘putting’ the vertebrae back into place.
2. Bed rest is the best treatment for low back pain
A lot of recent research has found that people who remain active when experiencing low back pain, even when in discomfort, have better outcomes in the long-term. It can be a bit of a balancing act between exercise/activity and rest, with gentle, non-strenuous exercise such as stretching and walking usually the preferred option. Complete bed rest has actually been shown to delay recovery, taking more time for pain resolution and a longer return to work/activity.
3. The level of pain matches the level of damage to my back
People with similar low back injury can have varying levels of pain. There are many factors that influence a person’s level of pain including: previous pain/injury, actual tissue damage, genetics, stress levels, fitness/strength levels, coping mechanisms. Generally, the longer duration a person experiences a specific pain for, the worse the pain will be and the harder it will be to resolve. Acknowledging and seeking help for your low back pain as soon as you notice discomfort will reduce recovery time and give you the skills to self-manage in the future.
4. All back pain comes from the disc
There isn’t one cause of low back pain. A number of pain-generating structures exist in the lower back region including; the vertebral/facet joints, intervertebral disc, ligaments/tendons, muscles and nerves. The pain caused by all of these pain-generating structures can appear very similar although, there are unique characteristics to each. That’s why the chiropractors at Thrive Wellness Centre will conduct a thorough assessment on your initial consultation to work out what’s causing your low back pain and more importantly how to fix it and prevent it from happening again.
Dr Daniel Grey is a chiropractor here at Thrive Wellness Centre. Click here to book an appointment with him or one of our other chiropractors.
All of our friendly practitioners work evenings and/or weekends to assist making and attending appointments that little bit easier for you. For any queries, please contact our office on (08) 9478 3869.