Top 4 Myths About Low Back Pain
By Ehren Allen, DPT/Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist
Myths About Low Back Pain
Low back pain is widespread, especially with so many people working in sedentary jobs. There are a lot of theories out there about how to fix Low back pain. As a physical therapist, I’ve treated hundreds, if not thousands of patients with low back pain over the past 20 years. I’ve learned that many myths exist about treating Low Back Pain that doesn’t work.
Top 4 Myths about fixing Low Back Pain
- Stretching the Hamstrings
- Sit until it gets better
- Do more sit-ups
- Use heat
These are myths and rumors. The fact is that most people get back pain at some point during their life. These treatments don’t usually help.
To learn more about low back pain, watch “Where Back Pain Begins.”
Myth #1 – Stretch the Hamstrings to Help Low Back Pain
The poor hamstrings get blamed for everything. But most of my patients with low back pain have normal hamstring flexibility. The hamstrings are the muscles in the back of the thighs. You can feel the pull when you bend forward to touch your toes.
Often with low back pain, some symptoms radiate down the back of the leg. This is sometimes referred to as Sciatica. Sciatica in the back of the thigh can feel like an ache in the hamstrings. It is natural to try to stretch them to try to help the pain. If the pain is from Sciatica, stretching the hamstrings can also apply pressure to the sciatic nerve. The pain may feel a little better at first, but there is often increased pain later.
Myth #2 – Sit until the Low Back Pain Gets Better
Sitting is one of the worst things you can do when you have low back pain. Sitting places the spine in a flexed position. When this happens, the fluid inside the disks in the low back can get pushed back toward the back of the disk. Over time, it can wear out or irritate the back of the disk. This can lead to an increase in low back pain and Sciatica.
If the Low back is already painful, prolonged sitting continually applies pressure to the already inflamed tissue. It’s kind of like hitting your thumb with a hammer over and over and expecting it to stop hurting.
Avoiding prolonged sitting is better to help most types of low back pain. If you do need to sit, sit with proper, erect posture.
Myth #3 – Do More Sit-Ups to fix Low Back Pain
Sit-ups aren’t necessarily a bad exercise, but they are not good if you have low back pain. The forceful flexion movement of the spine with sit-ups can increase pain and irritation in the low back. Sit-ups mostly work out large global mover muscles in the abdomen. Those muscles do very little to help stabilize the spine or provide “CORE” stability.
If you have low back pain, it is better to do gentle movement exercises that avoid flexing the spine. If you want to start working on the core, start with simply drawing in the lower abdomen for about 5 to 10 seconds at a time. Try it lying face down and face up.
Myth #4 -Use Heat to help Low Back Pain
If you have an injury, ice is usually the best initial treatment, at least for the first 48 hours. But in the low back, the structures usually involved are very deep beneath layers of muscles and bones. The chances are that heat is not going to penetrate all the way to the injured area. But, there are often muscle spasms in the back and buttocks with low back pain. Heat may soothe the muscles and help with temporary pain control. Just understand that it probably won’t speed up the healing process.
5 Top Ways to Help Low Back Pain
If you have back pain, here are the top things you should do.
- If you can walk, try to stay active.
- Avoid forward bending or hamstring stretching temporarily
- Avoid prolonged sitting
- Adjust your workstation to fit your body or use a standing workstation
- Avoid twisting or lifting
To learn about why Back Pain Can’t Wait for Care, watch this VIDEO.
Top Back Doctors in Jacksonville
If your back pain lasts longer than a few days, consider seeing your doctor. Most of the time, a referral to physical therapy can help to get you back to normal. If the problem persists, the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute offers the area’s top spine doctors and surgeons to help you.
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If you would like to make an appointment with a JOI Spine Doctor or a JOI Spine Therapist, call JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below.