Common myths and facts about low back pain

By Physiotherapist Zoe Shea (Back Physio in Nedlands)

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Are you grappling with low back pain (LBP) and wondering about its root cause—whether it’s related to tissue damage or degeneration? Do you question the necessity of scans in understanding your LBP? LBP affects nearly 10% of the global population, but our comprehension of it remains incomplete.

LBP that lacks specific structural changes, inflammation, or diseases falls under the category of non-specific LBP, constituting about 90% of cases. Unhelpful beliefs surrounding LBP play a pivotal role in perpetuating the issue, impacting pain coping abilities and diminishing confidence in exercise, creating a cycle of persistent pain. Over time, these beliefs can even contribute to mental health issues like increased stress and anxiety.

Recognising and rectifying misconceptions is crucial to fostering a positive approach toward managing LBP. Studies indicate that individuals harboring unhelpful pain beliefs are more prone to enduring LBP. These beliefs not only fail to alleviate LBP but also reinforce negative attitudes and ineffective pain coping mechanisms, leading to avoidance behaviors and compromised motor and postural control.

If you seek relief from persistent LBP, addressing these unhelpful beliefs becomes imperative. Developing a positive mindset and effective pain coping strategies can significantly impact your journey toward managing and overcoming low back pain.

Common unhelpful beliefs include:

  • Persistent LBP is always related to tissue damage
  • Scans are always needed to find the cause of LBP
  • I should stop anything that hurts my back
  • I have sore back because of poor posture and weak core

Facts about LBP:

  • Persistent LBP rarely associated with serious tissue damage
  • Scans rarely show the causes of LBP
  • Pain with exercise and movement does not equals harm
  • LBP is not caused by bad posture and weak core

Many of us may think that LBP is always associated with tissue damage or spine deterioration. However, there are a lot of factors that can cause LBP and pain does not necessarily mean that your back is damaged. In addition, to find the cause to your LBP does not always require medical imaging such as MRIs, CTs, X-rays, unless serious spinal pathology is suspected. Research shows that symptoms we experience may not correlate with scan findings. Most of the LBP can be improved effectively with conservative treatment involving pain education, activity modification, improving movement patterns and active exercise. Effective long-term management also involves self-management such as how to manage flare-ups and pacing activities. As physiotherapists we will assist you and help you to move in a safe and better way.

Ways we help to achieve the best care for managing persistent LBP,

Build a positive mindset😊

It is important to identify unhelpful beliefs as they directly affect how our body moves. Pain does not always equal to harm, our back does not wear out with just loading and bending! It could only mean our body is not used to that movement because we have been avoiding for a long time. So don’t stop moving just because you feel sore. Having a better knowledge about LBP enables you to build confidence in moving and staying active.

Improve movement patterns

Our bodies move in different ways. The underlying reasons for LBP may not only be biomechanical but also neuromuscular in nature. We identify unfavourable movement patterns which may drive LBP. Functional movements such as sit to stand, squats, bending forwards and lifting are common ones that we assess. By learning the correct patterns, strengthening and/or relaxing the appropriate muscle groups, your body will move better with less or even no pain.

Self-management strategies

Knowing how to manage flare-ups can be challenging. A sudden change in load may cause pain flare therefore pacing yourself is crucial. Ways to manage flare-ups includes setting achievable goals, modifying activities etc. You will learn how and when to progress/regress your exercises (including frequency and intensity) and be confident to move in a safe way. We will set a management plan for you to empower yourself in building strength and tolerance to exercise. It is also important to know when to get in touch if things do not go well.

Stay active and get your body stronger

Lastly it is to get your body fitter and stronger! It does not matter if it is doing your home exercise program, strengthening at the gym or attending physio-supervised Clinical Pilates classes, we will assist you to find the safest, the best (and fun!) way to build your physical capacity and develop habit of exercise.

To see our back physios in Nedlands, call our clinic on (08) 6389 2947.