Persistent low back pain and associated myths

Health Blog

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, between 75% to 85% of the population are experiencing lower back pain. According to University of Maryland, it is the leading cause of disability among male under the age of 45. So if you are one of those people that are experiencing them at the moment, of having recurring episodic pain, understand that you are not alone.

So what happened if you have tried all, and nothing works. What does it mean when the leading “experts” claimed that its all in your head? Does it mean that you are going mad? What happens if you are sure if its real? Recent studies indicate that orthotics, acupuncture, even specialized beds has been inconclusive. In fact, according to Dr. Stuart McGill, Professor of Kinesiology at University of Waterloo, most back surgery does not give long term success for patients based on his 30 years experience. Does that mean that you are doomed to live with this pain for the rest of your life?

The main problem with low back pain is that people seems to think every one has the same problem and should be treated the same. But sorry folks, low back pain is not the same with diabetes. It’s more similar to cancer. Based on Dr. McGill’s research, there’s more than 6 different pain triggers for low back pain, all of them are associated with different conditions, and all each have unique solution. There is a time and place for back surgery, and most of the time you don’t need it. Of course, since a doctor’s time is precious, it will save the doctor a lot of time to give a general prescription to all low back pain (i.e. pain killer) and some common therapy exercise (i.e. yoga, pilates or swimming) before simply giving them a nuclear option (i.e. surgery) when it doesn’t work WITHOUT even trying to find the real trigger of your pain. Sounds familiar with you?

So what should you do? Finding a good back expert that is really passionate about helping people would be one. If you are lucky. Another option would be to simply read Back Mechanics by Dr. Stuart McGill, learn how to identify your own pain triggers and how to address them yourself. Hey, its definitely cheaper than a a visit to the chiropractor.

Oh, and the myths? Well, here are some of them based on the book:

  1. Myth: Stretching will help cure my backpain. Truth: Stretching will induce the stretch reflex in your muscles, giving temporary relief on the area. But if your pain is say due to disk bulge (what I used to have), then it actually put further stress on the affected disk. the relief itself only last 20 – 40 minutes.
  2. Myth: Pilates and or yoga will help cure my back. Truth: Some of the exercises in Pilates are actually bad for your lower back. Bad yoga teachers will get you bed bound for months by encouraging bad posture.
  3. Myth: My surgeon will cut my pain away.. Truth: In most cases, surgery will cause irreversible damage making you worse off than you were in the long run
  4. Myth: They say its all in my head. Truth: They need to get sent back to school, most of the time there is a cause and effect relationship between your pain and a physical phenomenon in your back.
  5. Myth: This pain killer the doctor prescribed will take care of the pain. Truth: unless the underlying cause is being addressed, you will ended up being dependent on the pain killer, most likely with ever increasing dosage.
  6. Myth: This work hardening exercise will make me less sensitized to the pain. Truth: You will be more sensitive to the pain just like a sore thumb will not become less sensitive by continually hitting it with a hammer.

References:

  1. American Association of Neurological Surgeons, December 2011
  2. University of Maryland, January 2012
  3. Painscience.com, July 2013
  4. Rosner A. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2014
  5. Clin J Pain. 2013 Feb;29(2):172-85. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31824909f9. Acupuncture for low back pain
  6. Stuart McGill research, http://www.ahs.uwaterloo.ca/~mcgill/
  7. Stuart McGill, Back Mechanics: Step by step McGill method to fix back pain

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *