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Dispelling The Myths About Low Back Pain

Lower back pain is thought to affect one-third of the UK population every year, and 80% of us will experience lower back pain in our lifetime. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about back pain which can play a major role in our chances of making a good recovery. This month we look at some of the most common myths about lower back pain and what you can do to support your recovery…..

My back pain will become worse and deteriorate in later life.

The good news is studies show most people make a very good and speedy recovery. Many people see significant improvement in weeks and their pain resolves entirely over the course of a few months.

Persistent back pain means I’ve damaged my back.

Pain does not mean that you have structural damage in your spine. Pain flare up’s tend to be related more to changes in activity, stress and mood than structural tissue damage. Negative expectations, fear-avoidance behaviours are more strongly associated with persistent pain than tissue damage.

There’s something out of place in my back.

There is no evidence that back pain is caused by a bone or joint in your back being out of place, or your pelvis being out of alignment. Studies have looked at the affect of structural issues of the spine, pelvis and hips including pelvic asymmetries and alterations in leg length and found no association with increased levels of low back pain.

I need a scan!

Most people will not benefit from having a scan of their back. Scans do not give you information on recovery time and having a scan has not been found to change clinical outcomes in patients with low back pain. It only contributes to better management in a small number of cases. Fortunately, a simple clinical examination is usually enough to identify the the problem.

So what should I be doing?

There is a broad consensus across many different countries on some of the most effective ways to manage back pain.

Firstly, it is always important to get your back pain checked out. If your pain doesn’t improve, check in with your doctor, Physiotherapist or healthcare practitioner to be screened for signs of serious pathology and for advice and support to help you take control of your recovery.

Most people with low back pain should return to their usual levels of physical activity as quickly as possible. Gradually building your exercise routine and ensuring you’re moving your back in all directions has been found to be safe and healthy for the spine’s recovery.

For most people clear advice, an exercise program supported with soft tissue and manual therapy treatment where required, will see them on the road to recovery. Engaging in physical exercise, resuming normal social activities and works well as keeping a healthy body weight and ensuring good sleeping habits are all important elements of back care.

Even for people who have had back pain for a number of years, taking part in a supervised exercise programme, remaining physically active, and participating in programmes which address beliefs and attitudes about their pain have been shown to be beneficial. One of the most important elements of managing lower back pain is to manage anxiety and fear which can result in people doing less activity which in turns reduces mobility and strength which actually exacerbates pain and apprehension.

Is there a particular type of exercise that I should be doing for my back pain?

Although you may be advised on specific exercises exercises aimed at improving the mobility and strength to support the spine, a range of types of exercise have been shown to be helpful for low back pain. This includes aerobic exercises like walking, cycling, and swimming as well as things like Pilates and yoga. There is no evidence that any one of these is better than the others. Making exercise a habit is as important as the type of exercise you choose. So find something you enjoy and that fits in with your routine. Keeping up general levels of fitness is also an important, from gardening to walking up the stairs rather than taking the lift.

In summary, research shows that people who rest excessively, have difficulty coping with their pain and who believe there is a serious structural problem in their back are more likely to go on and suffer chronic pain. So keep moving and seek advice and support to ensure you overcome the mis-conceptions about lower back pain to make a full recovery.

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