The Truth About Back Pain
Back pain is extremely common. In fact, 80% of people will have significant back pain at some point. Back pain symptoms vary from individual to individual. They can be sharp or dull. Myths regarding back pain are also common. Can you recognize the myths and facts that follow?
Myth: Always Sit Up Straight
We know slouching in chairs is bad for your back. However, sitting up too straight and still can also irritate the back.
For relief of back pain from prolonged sitting, intermittently try leaning back in your chair with your feet on the floor with a slight curve in the low back. Also, stand for part of the day when possible (for example, while on the phone or reading).
Myth: Don't Lift Heavy Objects
When lifting, it's the way you lift that is most important, not just the weight you are lifting. When lifting, try to be as close to the object as possible, squatting to make the lift. Use your legs to lift. Don't torque your body or bend during the lift.
Myth: Bed Rest Is the Best Cure
Bed rest can help an acute back strain or injury. But it is not true that you should stay in bed. Sometimes remaining immobile in bed can actually make back pain worse.
Myth: Pain Is Caused by Injury
Back pain can be caused by injuries, disk degeneration, infections, and conditions that are inherited, such as ankylosing spondylitis.
Fact: More Pounds, More Pain
Keeping fit is helpful in preventing or aggravating back pain. Back pain is more common in those who are unfit or overweight. Those who only exercise intermittently (the weekend warriors) are at increased risk for back injury.
Myth: Skinny Means Pain-Free
People who are too thin can also be at risk for back pain, especially those with eating disorders and osteoporosis.
Myth: Exercise Is Bad for Back Pain
Regular exercise is very good for preventing back pain. Actually, for those with an acute back injury, sometimes a guided, mild exercise program is recommended. This often begins with gentle exercises that gradually increase in intensity.
Fact: Chiropractic Care Can Help
Spinal manipulation and massage can be very helpful options for many forms of lower back pain.
Fact: Acupuncture May Ease Pain
Acupuncture can be helpful for relieving many types of back pain that do not respond to other treatments. Yoga, progressive relaxation, and cognitive behavioral therapy can also be beneficial.
Myth: A Firm Bed Mattress Is Better
People differ in their response to mattress firmness. One study from Spain 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).