The Truth About Back Pain
It might be a sharp stab. It might be a dull ache. Sooner or later, eight out of 10 of us will have back pain. Back pain is common — and so are back pain myths. See if you can tell the myths from the facts.
Myth: Always Sit Up Straight
Okay, slouching is bad for your back. But sitting up too straight and still for long periods can also be a strain on the back. If you sit a lot, try this a few times a day: Lean back in your chair with your feet on the floor and a slight curve in your back. Even better: Try standing for part of the day, while on the phone or while reading work materials.
Myth: Don’t Lift Heavy Objects
It’s not necessarily how much you lift, it’s how you lift. Of course you shouldn’t lift anything that might be too heavy for you. When you lift, squat close to the object with your back straight and head up. Stand, using your legs to lift the load. Do not twist or bend your body while lifting or you may hurt your back.
Myth: Bed Rest Is the Best Cure
Yes, resting can help an acute injury or strain that causes back pain. But it’s a myth that you should stay in bed. A day or two in bed can make your back pain worse.
Myth: Pain Is Caused by Injury
Disc degeneration, injuries, diseases, infections, and even inherited conditions can cause back pain.
Fact: More Pounds, More Pain
Staying fit helps prevent back pain. Back pain is most common among people who are out of shape, especially weekend warriors who engage in vigorous activity after sitting around all week. And as you might guess, obesity stresses the back.
Myth: Skinny Means Pain-Free
Anyone can get back pain. In fact, people who are too thin, such as those suffering from anorexia, an eating disorder, may suffer bone loss resulting in fractured or crushed vertebrae.
Myth: Exercise Is Bad for Back Pain
A big myth. Regular exercise prevents back pain. And for people suffering an acute injury resulting in lower back pain, doctors may recommend an exercise program that begins with gentle exercises and gradually increases in intensity. Once the acute pain subsides, an exercise regimen may help prevent future recurrence of back pain
Fact: Physical Therapy Can Help
The American College of Physicians and American Pain Society guidelines for treatment of lower back pain recommend that patients and doctors consider other options with proven benefits, such as spinal manipulation or massage therapy.
Fact: Acupuncture May Ease Pain
According to guidelines from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society, patients and their doctors should consider acupuncture among treatments for back pain patients who do not get relief from standard self care. Yoga, progressive relaxation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy are also suggested for consideration.
Myth: Firmer Mattresses Are Better
A Spanish study of people with longstanding, non-specific back pain showed that those who slept on a medium-firm mattress — rated 5.6 on a 10-point hard-to-soft scale — had less back pain and disability than those who slept on a firm mattress (2.3 on the scale) mattress. However, depending on their sleep habits and the cause of their back pain, different people may need different mattresses.