Most people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. From long hours in front of a computer to heavy lifting to bouts of activity after a long period of being sedentary, it’s all too easy to ignite the muscles in your lower back.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to treat lower back pain. But before you can determine which treatment is best for you, it’s important to sift through the treatment myths – which I went ahead and did for you!
Here’s a list of the top ten myths about back pain, and the facts behind the fiction.
Bed rest is the best cure for back pain.
This may be a good idea after an acute injury, but if you stay bedridden for more than a day or two, you could find that you’re doing your body more harm than good.
If you’ve hurt your back, it’s recommended to do a bit of light exercise each day to keep your muscles activated and prevent atrophy or deconditioning.
In fact, research has shown that people with acute or chronic back pain who adopt an exercise routine have been able to reduce the incidence of pain by 10% to 50%.
Another study showed that workers who exercised while recovering from back injuries recovered faster than those who did not.
Sit up straight to stop the pain.
In some cases this may help, but in others, sitting up straight can put pressure on your lumbar discs, causing more back pain.
If your posture tends to sag towards one side or another, sitting up straight can cause muscle strain and increase your pain.
Where posture is concerned, listen to your body. If sitting with a slouch doesn’t hurt and sitting up straight does, your slouch might be better for you.
Diet has nothing to do with back pain.
Your spine is the support system of your body. If you’re carrying extra weight, your spine is doing more work. Thus, sometimes weight gain or being overweight can lead to back pain.
The opposite also applies – if you were overweight and reduce your weight, you may see some of your pain disappear.
Obesity is also known to speed up lumbar disc degeneration, which typically occurs in old age.
Cradle your bad back with a feather-soft mattress
This seems like a great idea, until you try it and make everything worse! You can sink in too far and have a harder time moving, making your body stiff come morning and only increasing your pain.
But don’t opt for super hard, either! This won’t cushion your body enough, and can cause discomfort at the heaviest parts of your body.
Best to get something in the middle that’s juuuuust right – medium-firm. This will cushion you in all the right places, and if it doesn’t reduce your pain, it will at least keep it neutral.
Medication is the way to go.
Medication doesn’t fix everything! For pain, especially back pain, hands-on therapies – like massage – seem to be just as effective, or sometimes more effective, than medications. Check with your doctor for the best treatment for you.
Massage will ALWAYS help!
I wish I could say that this wasn’t a myth, but unfortunately, it is. There are some cases where massage can make your pain worse. If you have an injury or an unstable spasm, massage can potentially worsen these conditions.
Always see your doctor for an injury or painful situation before consulting with a massage therapist, acupuncturist, physical therapist, or other practitioner.
Take a hot bath to help back pain.
For acute pain – a new injury – a hot bath might actually make things worse! The heat from the bath can increase inflammation in the newly agitated areas, which could increase your pain and potentially increase healing time.
Instead of hopping in a nice hot bath after first sustaining a back injury, try icing the area for 15 – 20 minutes at a time. This method should reduce inflammation and hopefully reduce pain while speeding up healing time. Don’t apply the ice directly to the skin, of course, if you want to avoid ice burn.
Now, if your back pain is chronic, feel free to hop in the tub. The hot water will be soothing and fill you with sweet, sweet relief.
The more painful it is, the more damage there is.
For acute pain, this MAY be true, though it’s really depends on the exact cause and manner of the injury.
With chronic pain, however, there is no evidence that pain and damage are correlated. Chronic back pain may be the buildup of several causes, or may have no direct, identifiable cause. The amount of pain you feel may have nothing to do with the reason for the pain.
It hurts because it’s broken.
If your pain is acute – stemming from an injury – maybe you broke it. In that case, you’d probably know, because you’d likely be able to identify the cause of the pain (ie, “falling” or “car accident”).
However, if your pain is chronic, it’s unlikely that there is an easily identifiable external cause like “falling” or “car accident”. Your pain may stem from weight gain, disc degeneration, or even an inherited condition.
Finding out what internal condition, or conditions, causes your pain will help you determine the proper treatment.
There’s a single best cure for my back pain; I just haven’t found it yet
If only it were that simple!
There are so many potential causes of back pain and so many different ways that back pain can manifest that there is no single “cure”. However, there are many treatment methods that can be used by themselves or in combination.
For example, your doctor may suggest taking a pain management medication and regularly seeing a massage therapist; you may be directed to see a physical therapist; yoga has been known to work wonders for certain types of back pain; in few severe cases, surgery is an option.
Before deciding on a course of treatment for your back pain, consult your doctor and try to figure out what causes your pain.
If you’re considering massage as a method for treating your back pain, deep tissue, Swedish massage, and Shiatsu are known to help relieve symptoms — and we offer all three!
Feel free to get in touch if you want to learn more about how massage can help with your back pain; leave a comment, shoot us an email, or give us a call at (973) 744-1576.