Back pain is one of the biggest reasons we seek medical care, and low back pain is listed as a leading cause of disability worldwide, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there and, along with it, a lot of bad treatments.
So today, I want to bring up five things you should know about back pain :
1/Back pain isn’t just limited to the spine
Our back is made of bones called vertebrae that run from your neck to your tailbone; These vertebrae form the spinal column, which houses the spinal cord; each vertebra is also connected to the others by ligaments; between each vertebra are discs which provide cushion and help absorb and distribute pressure.
Within this structure of connections are also joints, muscles, tendons and nerves, but our back isn’t held up by just the spine.
In fact, a lot of that work is done by our core, which includes our abdominal muscles, low back muscles, hips, glutes and pelvic floor.
The muscles in our core take pressure off the rest of the spine.
Every day we put all kinds of pressure on our backs, When we walk, stand, carry our groceries, lift boxes, and even when sit, so it’s not only spinal pressure but torn muscles or slipped discs that could be contributing to back pain, but pain itself is even more complex.
Often it’s how pain signals are processed in the nerves or in the brain that perpetuates the pain.
Other factors like stress and anxiety can amplify pain. This complexity is why treating back pain can be so frustrating and why it’s enticing to seek out all sorts of medical suspect, Which leads me to :
Chiropractic treatment is not backed by science going to chiropractors for spinal manipulation is very popular, especially in the United States. But a study that looked at 45 systematic reviews found no evidence supporting chiropractic treatment as effective for any medical condition.
I do not deny that people who visit chiropractors sometimes feel better after a session, but studies suggest that comfort and relief from being touched is most likely a placebo effect. This is also a reminder that chiropractic treatment can sometimes be dangerous. Some people have suffered vascular strokes after neck adjustments.
3/ Imaging techniques
Imaging techniques like MRI or X-ray don’t always help with diagnosing back pain; For instance, you can be in a lot of pain and get an MRI showing a pristine spine with nothing out of the ordinary, or you could have no pain whatsoever. An MRI could turn up abnormalities like a bulging disc, and what’s more, Sometimes, when you have pain, an abnormality on MRI may have nothing to do with it.
Additionally, an MRI doesn’t always capture what’s happening with your muscles or tell us how pain is processed in the brain. There are instances when imaging helps to allow a serious problem, especially after trauma or an accident or if there were red flags, meaning warning signs for cancer or troubling neurological symptoms. But for the majority of people with, back pain, imaging has actually been associated with worse patient outcomes and unnecessary surgeries.
4/ Back surgeries
Back surgeries can sometimes do more harm than good. Researchers analyzed studies on two types of spine surgery, lumbar spine fusion and lumbar spine decompression. They found that neither of these sir surgeries was more effective than non-surgical treatment, which I’ll get into in a bit.
Physical therapy is a really good option for back pain.
A well-designed physical therapy program can often be very effective at treating acute and chronic back pain, but it does take work; good physical therapy involves not just assessments but also a structured home exercise program which you need to do regularly.
There are also multi disciplinary clinics that can offer multimodal therapy like medications, physical therapy and sometimes injections.
What I’m saying is this there isn’t always an easy fix for back pain. The solutions take time and sometimes need a multi-pronged approach for now. You can show your back some love by staying active and doing exercises that strengthen your muscles, including your core.
Dr, Jen Gunter