My favourite back pain myths (part 2).

1.Yoga and Pilates are great for relieving back pain.

               Let me just start off by saying that yoga and Pilates can be very therapeutic. Yoga has been around for thousands of years; its focus was more of a meditation through movement rather than a ‘cure all’ as it is often advertised today. Mindfulness is beneficial, and I think if we all spent more time becoming more in tune with our bodies we would not be in as much pain. I prescribe many movements that are like Yoga and Pilates, however, I only prescribe the ones that will be beneficial for that patient. Blindly following these systems and doing a random assortment of movements may help some parts of the body, but it can harm others. Just for a quick example, perhaps you have disc that is bulging out and putting pressure on your sciatic nerve, any movement that causes rubbing on those two structures will not be beneficial as it will result in increased wear on the tissues and also an increase in sensitivity of the two structures.

2.Stronger muscles will fix my back pain.

Strength is quite easy to measure. Many therapists believe a lack of strength means you are likely to have back pain. What I have found is rather than strength, it is the stability of the spine, proper form or movement patterns, and proper programming that is needed. If you cannot properly stabilise the spine when moving and lifting, you are more likely to get injured. If you cannot move well enough to perform the movement properly you are loading areas of the body that are more fragile, so you end up with an injury. If you have fatigued your body through your job or exercise regimes and are not allowing your body to recover and adapt, you’re going to get injured. So before adding some more cylinders or a turbo to your engine make sure your gears, suspension, and brakes work.

3. Stretching fixes back pain.

 Firstly, stretching can provide a relief. This relief should not misguide you and be thought of as fixing the problem. When we stretch, we trigger what is called a stretch reflex. During the stretch reflex your muscle spindles are stimulated which help inhibit (stop) signals of pain. This phenomenon only lasts about twenty minutes before the pain starts to fire up again. Now I do not think that getting a bit of relief is a bad thing however, if your back pain is due to too much mobility in your spine the stretching will be making it worse and it will also be masking your pain. Therefore, you should have a thorough assessment to make sure the stretch is right for you. Stabilising your spine through appropriate exercises is what will cure your back pain. Have a look at what I wrote here.

4. Building bigger muscles will cure my back pain.

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Body building can be a healthy hobby if you do not take it to the extreme. I do however see many bodybuilders at my practice, and this is mainly due to the faulty movement patterns they pick up from the way they lift. Many bodybuilders use isolation exercises to get a good mind-muscle connection; a technique that many swear is necessary to grow big muscles. These isolation exercises are usually not representative of how we should move. Rather than focusing on mind muscle connection you should focus on control of movement and the bigger the movement the better, the more muscle synergy we can build the better. This does not mean you cannot build big muscles but more on that another time.

5. I have back pain because I am old.

Getting older does not mean we should live in pain. Pain with age should not be normalised. Many ‘degenerative diseases’ are only normal adaptations our body has made. Sometimes patients have what is called a degenerative cascade, which is when we injure ourselves but the injury results in other changes in the body (for example a disc bulging then trapping a nerve).

Many people I helped have lost proper function which then results in them putting pressure on other structures of the body. Observe below: we are born with the ability to squat deeply and if we maintain it we can keep it forever. Unfortunately in Western culture, we have become reliant on commodities that counteract natural movements, prohibiting the frequency (if at all) in which we perform movements that should be natural to us. Most of my treatment is getting people back to proper movement.

Hope this information helps, let me know if you need anything I am more than happy to help.

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