5 Common Back Pain Myths: Know the Facts

Back pain, especially lower back pain, is quite common. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, at least 619 million people worldwide were affected by low back pain in 2020. It is estimated that the number of low back pain cases will reach 843 million by 2050. Increasingly more numerous, myths about back pain are also spreading like fire. So read on for the facts about back pain.

You would think that back pain only strikes the elderly. But the truth is that it is a common disease suffered by people of all ages around the world. It can manifest in a variety of ways, such as sharp, dull or burning sensations that can spread to the buttocks, hips or legs, says Dr. Vipin Mohan, Consultant at the Department of Orthopedics at Amrita Hospital, Kochi . The pain can be constant, intermittent or triggered by certain activities.

Back pain is quite common. Image provided by: Shutterstock

Besides pain and discomfort, back pain can include feelings of numbness, tingling, or weakness. These can be signs of possible nerve damage. Ignoring these symptoms can lead to serious consequences due to irreversible neurological disorders.

Certain warning signs help identify potential underlying back pain issues.

• Acute pain suggests muscle or ligament injuries or problems with internal organs.
• Radiating pain can be a sign of nerve compression, and a ruptured or herniated disc can cause sciatica, leading to pain in the legs.
• The onset of sudden leg weakness could indicate nerve compression or even a stroke.
• Saddle incontinence or anesthesia (loss of feeling in the buttocks, genital area and inner thighs) can mean serious nerve or spinal damage.

Causes of back pain

Back pain can arise from a variety of conditions –

• In our younger years (20s and 30s), everyday factors like sitting too long, lifting children, or exercising too much can contribute to typical mechanical back pain.
• Injuries from falls can also lead to back pain, says the expert.
• Problems with the intervertebral discs, which act as cushions between the bones of the spine, can cause discomfort when they rupture or bulge, irritating nearby nerves and causing back and leg pain.
• As we age, wear and tear conditions such as degenerative disc disease and lumbar arthritis can develop, affecting different areas of the spine.
• Inflammation of the joints connecting the spine and pelvis, known as sacroiliitis, can cause pain in the lower back, buttocks and upper legs.

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Back ache
There are many myths about back pain. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Common myths and facts about back pain

It is true that back pain can be frustrating and stressful for us. But not everything you hear about it is factual. Here are some myths and facts:

1. Myth: Bed rest is the best cure for back pain.

Do: Although rest can be helpful for short-term back pain, prolonged bed rest is not recommended, Dr. Mohan tells Health Shots. Gentle movements, staying active, and using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications are often more effective in relieving back pain.

2. Myth: Herniated discs or herniated discs always require surgery.

Do: In the majority of cases, herniated discs get better on their own with non-surgical treatments such as reduced activity and anti-inflammatory medications. Surgery is only considered when conservative treatments fail to provide relief or when severe neurological symptoms are present.

3. Myth: Being physically active prevents back pain.

Fact: Exercise and movement are good for your health. Yes, regular exercise can strengthen back muscles and improve flexibility, which can reduce the risk of back pain. However, this does not guarantee immunity from back pain, as other factors such as overexertion, spinal irregularities, and natural wear and tear can still contribute to back problems.

4. Myth: An injury always causes back pain.

Fact: Most back problems develop gradually over time due to repetitive strain or poor posture. Although injuries can cause back pain, they are often described as one-time events resulting from accidents, falls or improper lifting techniques.

5. Myth: Seeing a spine specialist means you will always have surgery.

Fact: The expert shares that not everyone with back problems requires surgery. Spine specialists first explore various non-surgical treatments and only recommend surgery when all other options have been exhausted.

So instead of blindly following others, see a doctor if your back pain refuses to leave you.

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