Back pain myths

“If I go to a neurosurgeon for my back pain, he will recommend nothing but surgery.” This is nothing but a myth. “If I have back pain, I should rest my back as much as I can.” Again, a myth. There are plenty of myths floating around that tarnish our concepts regarding back pain. This article will try to address five common misconceptions regarding back pain.
1. I need a scan for my back pain right away
X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have a role in diagnosis and treatment of complicated cases of back pain such as trauma. For nonspecific back pain, these scans have a very limited role. Expense and radiation exposure are other hazards associated with these scans. Therefore, the use of these advanced diagnostic tools must be justified and reserved for cases where they are actually needed.
2. Surgery is the only option for my slipped disc related back pain
Surgery is, in fact, the last resort for the treatment of back pain resulting from a slipped disc when all other treatment options fail. A number of treatment strategies like medications and physiotherapy are commonly employed. Studies demonstrate a significant number of patients to benefit from conservative management alone for mild to moderate back pain.
3. I should rest as much as I can
Rest is effective for back pain relief only up to a certain extent. Experts recommend returning to daily life activities and mild exercise (as recommended by the physiotherapist) to keep the symptoms from getting worse. Exercise has been shown to be highly effective when combined with other treatment modalities like medications, especially in cases of chronic backache.
4. Back pain will cause paralysis
This is a very common misconception. Paralysis is associated only with severe and complicated cases where back pain is caused by pinched nerves as a result of dangerous mode of injury (trauma for instance). Not all types of back pain cause muscle weakness and paralysis is even less common.
5. Heat/cold therapy can provide complete relief
Heat and cold therapy provide only short-term symptomatic relief. It is only an adjuvant therapy, not the mainstay of treatment. While heat/cold therapy feels great, it is foolhardy to rely on it as primary treatment. Experts recommend it in combination with other treatment strategies.
Heads up!
It is always better to get information first-hand from reliable resources rather than rely on hearsay. Therefore, reach out to an expert to clarify any questions and concepts (or misconceptions) that you might have regarding back pain.

1. McCabe E, Jadaan D, Munigangaiah S, Basavaraju N, McCabe JP. Do medical students believe the back pain myths? A cross-sectional study. BMC medical education. 2019 Dec 1;19(1):235.
2. Van Tulder M, Becker A, Bekkering T, Breen A, del Real MT, Hutchinson A, Koes B, Laerum E, Malmivaara A, COST B13 Working Group on Guidelines for the Management of Acute Low Back Pain in Primary Care. European guidelines for the management of acute nonspecific low back pain in primary care. European spine journal. 2006 Mar;15(Suppl 2):s169.
3. Postacchini F. Results of surgery compared with conservative management for lumbar disc herniations. Spine. 1996 Jun 1;21(11):1383-7.
4. Quittan M. Management of back pain. Disability and rehabilitation. 2002 Jan 1;24(8):423-34.

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