5 Things You Didn’t Know About Back Pain

Americans spend over $134.5 billion on low back and neck pain (healthdata.org). That’s more than treatments for diabetes or heart disease. The good news is that scientific research on back pain has progressed. Receiving physical therapy first for low back pain lowers costs and even can eliminate pain even if there are herniated discs or arthritis.
As physical therapists, we are movement experts. We will improve the quality of your life through hands-on care, education, and prescribed movement. Here are some things you should know about back pain:

Back pain is common and normal – Many people experience back pain during their lifetime. It occurs to almost everybody at some point. In most cases, back pain is mild and resolves itself. Most back pain results from strains, and the recovery outcome is excellent. Only a small number of people develop long-standing back pain. Acute back pain lasts less than three months, while chronic back pain lasts longer. And recurrent back pain is when symptoms continue to come back.

Scans are rarely needed – A common question we receive from patients suffering from low back pain is whether or not they should get an MRI before working with us. MRIs provide excellent pictures of the anatomy and are great at detecting severe diseases like tumors and abnormalities. The challenge with MRIs and why we don’t recommend everyone get them is that they detect every imperfection of the tissue, leading to many false conclusions to the sources of pain. When people have scans for back pain, the scans often show up things that are poorly linked with pain. Studies show that even people who don’t have back pain have things like bulging discs, degenerated discs, or herniated discs. Just like baldness, many of these are indications of aging. In addition, scans are expensive and time-consuming. For more information, check out Dr. Rainey’s video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejo2F8wvr2k
Bed rest is not helpful. While avoiding aggravating activities may help relieve pain, there is strong evidence that keeping active, including work and hobbies, is essential in aiding recovery. Bed rest is associated with higher pain levels, more significant disability, and slower recovery. The longer a person stays in bed, the worse the pain becomes.

The benefits of exercises for back pain are:

Improved range of motion
Improved specific trunk muscle activation
Improved endurance of the low back muscles
Improved motor control
Increased flexibility and strength in your hips

Surgery is rarely needed – Only a small population of people with back pain require surgery. Results for back surgery are often not better long-term over non-surgical interventions. Surgery should be the last resort. All other treatment options should be exhausted before consideration of surgery. If you’re considering lumbar fusion, try this calculator created by orthopaedic surgeons to see your results. https://www.becertain.org/projects/spine-research/spine-lumbar-fusion-outcomes-calculator
Persistent back pain can get better. Back pain is associated with many factors making it difficult to treat. A massage addresses sore muscles but doesn’t address sleep or stress. That is why we like to take a biopsychosocial approach. To treat pain effectively, we must consider genetics, diet, sleep, thoughts and beliefs related to pain, and social aspects. By identifying contributing factors and addressing them, pain can be significantly reduced.
Avoid surgery and expensive MRIs. Stay away from addictive opioids. Early physical therapy for back pain leads to the best outcomes for those with back pain. We look forward to helping you find relief. Schedule an appointment today and improve your quality of life.