5 Back Pain Myths
Below are some of the most common things we hear regarding back pain. I think it’s important to explain why some of these things aren’t always true.
Everyone has back pain. It’s normal: Just because something is common doesn’t make it normal. Back pain is not normal and often is the body’s way of saying something more serious is going on. Think about a car for a second… If the check engine light came on and we just put a piece of duct tape over the light does that solve the problem? Of course not! Masking chronic pain with medications does the same thing to the body- medications turn off the body’s warning signs but the underlying structural problem is still there. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not bashing medicine because it has its place and we have great EMERGENCY medicine in our country but we have to come to grips with the truth that we are not just one more muscle relaxer from a pain free life or one more cortisone shot from playing golf again. We need to get to the cause of the problem and fix that.
X-ray and MRI are both “normal” so there is nothing wrong: When most surgeons and doctors look at MRI’s and X-rays they are looking specifically for breaks, fractures, scoliosis, or disc issues. If they see any of these- they can offer medications, injections, or surgery. Corrective chiropractors look at X-rays and MRIs much differently. When looking at X-rays, structural chiropractors are looking for deviations from normal spinal bio-mechanics. Normal bio-mechanics are to be completely straight from the front and from the side we have three curves- one in the neck, mid back, and low back. If we are bio-mechanically where we should be, our back is stronger, the muscles are nice and relaxed, and the nerves aren’t irritated. Small structural shifts to the spine can occur from obvious things like car accidents, falls, and sports injuries but what is often overlooked are micro traumas we deal with every day. Micro traumas can be extended cell phone/computer use, being seated for extended time throughout the day, repetitive physical labor, the list goes on and on. These small structural shifts can lead to many secondary conditions that we help people with on a daily basis.
Back pain that comes and goes isn’t a problem: Of course it is! Oftentimes this is a sign that slowly a chronic issue is developing. Having your back “go out” here and there is an indication that something structurally is unstable in the spine. The longer these segments stay this way the faster they will degenerate. All too often when we take a digital X-ray of someone, the areas with the most degeneration are in the areas with the most structural misalignment.
Drugs and surgery are the only ways to correct back pain: Medications may mask the symptoms but by no means are they the answer. Anti-inflammatory medications and stronger yet opiate medications can cause a wide array of secondary side-effects often times more dangerous than the pain itself. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be out of pain but locating the cause of the symptom is what is truly important.
Back pain is a normal part of aging: One of the biggest misconceptions is that as we age it is normal for us to suffer pain. Just last week I had an avid runner come in complaining of knee pain on the right side but none on the left and blamed it on merely age. I asked them how old their other knee is. They looked confused for a second and then realized both knees are the same age– so something else must be contributing to the pain. After a thorough examination we found that his hips were not level and he had a slight curve in his low back which meant the right knee was continuously getting more stress on it than the left knee. Structural shifts of the nervous system can contribute to premature degeneration. Restoring proper structure can help reduce this stress and overtime help to relieve pain.