So much misinformation plagues people with low back pain that it seems sensible to deal with some facts, all based on results from a recent US survey, that dispel some well-established but unfounded myths about low back pain.
Myth: You must know exactly what is wrong with your lower back in order to have a good chance of resolving the problem.
Fact: If you’re in generally good health, an exact diagnosis is usually as meaningless as it is difficult to attain. What is meaningful is the nature of the treatment, not the terminology of the diagnosis.
Myth: Back specialists agree about what causes low back pain.
Fact: There is little agreement. People with bad posture, weak abdominal muscles and unmanageable stress get chronic low back pain. But so do people with correct posture, strong abdominal muscles and well-handled stress. All that’s known is that some treatments and approaches work extremely well, while others are grossly over-rated.
Myth: Most patients are too lazy to do back exercises even if they are prescribed by their practitioners.
Fact: Nearly three-quarters of low back pain sufferers in the US survey report doing back exercises regularly (at least four times a week), and most of these individuals exercise daily, even though their practitioners did not prescribe an exercise regime.
Myth: Any good-quality book, article or instruction sheet from a doctor can teach you what you need to know about back pain exercise therapy.
Fact: People with activity-limiting chronic lower back pain recover more fully after receiving instructions and individualized attention from exercise experts.
Myth: If you need professional care, choose either an orthopedic surgeon or a chiropractor.
Fact: Neither orthopedic surgeons nor chiropractors were rated tops for low back pain by the back sufferers in the US survey.
Myth: Most people solve their low back problems with the help of medical doctors.
Fact: Most people start their treatment with medical doctors but complete it with a non-physician practitioner – many of whom have more training than doctors in musculoskeletal disorders and back pain exercise therapy.
Myth: The most widely used treatments for low back pain are always the most effective treatments.
Fact: Some extremely popular treatments, including prescription drugs, have little value for many back sufferers – and may have the potential for harm.
Myth: Eighty per cent of back sufferers recover within two months without any treatment.
Fact: This figure – which appears in many books and articles on back pain – is misleading. The key is the word ‘recover’. The truth is that 80 per cent of lower back pain sufferers do get back on their feet within a matter of weeks. But the quality of their recovery is too often incomplete and temporary. Most of them continue to have episodes of recurrent back pain in the months and years that follow. What’s more, “within two months” is a long time if you are the one who has to endure those weeks or months of pain, or if you lose your job during that time.