Back pain myths busted

Widely-held myths about back pain are making people fear doing the very activities they need to do to help them get better, physiotherapists are warning.

Studies show the importance of remaining active and continuing with exercise, including weight training where appropriate, to help overcome back pain.

Polling conducted for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) has revealed how deep-rooted these fears have become. A new campaign by the Society, based on the research findings, now aims to bust the four biggest myths to help tackle what remains the leading cause of disability and sickness absence from work.

The myths are:

  • Moving will make my back pain worse
  • I should avoid exercise
  • A scan will show me exactly what is wrong
  • Pain equals damage

The survey showed nearly four in ten people believed a scan would show them what was wrong, including 60% of those who had ongoing back trouble. The reality is that while a scan may sometimes reveal the problem, most often it won’t.

Additionally, even people without back pain may have changes in their spine and seeing changes on a scan could lead to the same fear that causes exercise-avoidance, potentially making the problem worse.

The chair of the CSP, Catherine Pope, said: “It’s understandable why these myths are held – indeed, some would have been the established view in healthcare before new research came out.

“But as the evidence moves on, so must we and that’s why it’s so important that people understand more about what causes back pain and how best to tackle it. In most cases, it is essential to keep moving and continue doing regular activities, including exercise, so that what may often be a minor problem doesn’t develop into something more serious.”