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Low Back Pain Myth

Three Myths About Low Back Pain: Myth #1

Intro to the Myth’s About Low Back Pain.

We’ll be getting into the causes of low back pain in the upcoming posts, so make sure you follow us on Facebook and Subscribe for regular updates and news. However, before we get into the causes, I’d like to stress the importance of where our focus NEEDS to be in order to create long term solutions. In a previous post I mentioned that pain is just a symptom. The over-arching myth about low back pain is that pain is the problem. Let me say this, it is impossible to create a long term solution if we only focus on the symptom and not the cause of a problem.

Analogies work so well to illustrate this point. If your door is squeaking that is a symptom of a rusty hinge, right? So there are 2 options here. Stop the symptom, stop the squeaking, by spraying WD-40 on the hinge, OR solve the problem by replacing the hinge. In these options, both stop the squeaking, but which one is the long term solution? If you want the long term solution you are searching for it is incredibly important to turn your focus to the CAUSE of your low back pain. But as I mentioned earlier, before we get into the causes, I want to address the three myths to low back pain.

Myth #1 of The Three Myths of Low Back Pain:

The Problem is in My [Insert Painful Body Part Here] Myth

This is a 2 part myth. The first part of this myth stems from the fact that not all pain is physical. There are 3 types of pain. Physical, chemical, and emotional.

Myth about low back pain

Physical pain is best explained as a mechanical problem. In an extreme example, you’re shoulder is dislocated and it hurts. Or in a more common example, there is a mechanical stress (like pressure) on a structure (like a nerve) causing pain along that nerve path (like sciatica down your leg). Other examples of physical pain can be a muscle tear, degenerative joint arthritis, or a herniated disc. This type of pain is due to the fact that a tissue is either injured, being used improperly, or occupying space where it shouldn’t. This is the most common type of pain and generally responds the best to Chiropractic care.

Chemical pain is best described as the inflammatory response, but is not limited to only inflammation. Chemical pain is caused by

Myth About Low Back Pain

the body’s natural response to some irritating stimulus. The stimulus can be, and often is, caused by a physical problem. But this doesn’t always have to be the case. I wrote a great article on this in another series. You can read more about the inflammatory process here. This type of pain is what the variety of pain medications address. Some address different pain receptors, some address different pain signaling chemicals, some just simply reduce inflammation, etc. However, it doesn’t take much explaining to see that if you have physical pain and you use a chemical solution you are not going to address the problem. If you have a herniated disc in your low back occupying space where your nerve travels causing sciatica, this is a PHYSICAL problem. A chemical solution is only going to address the SYMPTOM. That pain in your leg is not coming from your leg. It’s coming from your low back.

This is a MAJOR problem in the healthcare industry and one of the three myths of low back pain that need to be addressed. Almost every medical doctor, orthopaedist, neurologist, etc rely exclusively on CHEMICAL solutions no matter what type of pain you have. To make it worse, upwards of 90% of all low back pain comes from a physical problem. This is why you haven’t been able to achieve any long term relief for your low back pain. And also why when you take your pain medication it only takes the edge off. My patients tell me all the time, “I took a muscle relaxer and a prescription pain med my primary gave me and it didn’t help, just took the edge off a bit.” I respond the same way every time. “I’m sorry you aren’t finding relief from these chemicals but let me try and make some sense of this for you. Pain can be caused by a lot of different reasons. One of them is inflammation. Pain medications are designed to reduce inflammation. If you have pain… and it’s CAUSED by inflammation… the medication will help you. BUT, if you have pain… and it’s NOT CAUSED by inflammation… you could take anti-inflammatory medications all day long, it’s not going to help you at all.

Myth about low back pain

Emotional Pain. The last type of pain is emotional pain. My patients often express that if they have pain in their body there must be something physically wrong. Some joint is injured, some muscle is pulled, some nerve is punched, etc. As we’ve already learned, this is only in the realm of physical pain. Often times physical pain can cause a chemical response, but that’s not always the case. Chemical pain can be caused by inflammatory foods that we eat like gluten or dairy, atmospheric pressure changes when it rains, or excessive amounts of stress increasing the amount of cortisol circulating in your system. However, none of these address a very challenging cause of pain in our body.

Emotional pain is best described as bio-psycho-social aspects of pain. You can read more about this concept in a very helpful book called “Explain Pain” by David Butler and Lorimer Mosely. You can click here to check this book out on Amazon. Without getting into too much detail on this concept let me try and explain this form of pain in the easiest way possible.

I want you to get into a posture that feels proud, confident, and powerful. You probably sat up straight, shoulders back, chest out, and maybe even took a nice breath in through your diaphragm. In a nutshell, you reflexively got into perfect posture, and it likely felt really good.

Now, I want you to get into a posture that illustrates depression, sadness, and loneliness. How about a posture that reflects anger, frustration, and anxiety? Are you noticing how emotions can have a significant effect on something as subconscious as posture? Now imagine what effect these emotions can have on the other subconscious parts of us. Like our heart rate, blood pressure, our organ systems, our cellular integrity.

The emotional pain is among the most challenging types of pain to address. But, it’s important to know that both physical treatments and chemical treatments are never going to address the root of the problem. In my office I point these patients toward a spiritual healing, through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. I encourage you, if you know you’re experiencing pain from an emotional component, you need to address the root of the problem. It’s the only way you are ever going to experience the life changing long term relief that you deserve.

Now that we’ve explained the three types of pain, physical, chemical, and emotional, I hope you’re starting to realize that just because you are experiencing low back pain doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong with your low back. Especially if you have a chemical or emotional cause. This myth is why so many people try dozens of different treatments and find no benefit or long term solution to their problem.

Myth #1: Part 2

The second part of the myth that pain in your back must be coming from your back is by diving into the physical aspect of pain a bit further. Just because you have pain in your back doesn’t necessarily mean you have a back problem. This is popularize by Perry Nickelston’s “Stop Chasing Pain” series. You can find more about the Stop Chasing Pain Here.

The idea here is that mechanical problems manifest in a variety of different ways. Here is a good example most of my patients seem to understand.

Everyone has heard of Newton’s Third Law of Physics, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. That’s why if you kick a brick of cement you can break your toe; because all of the force you put into the brick comes back as an equal amount into your foot. Well, just like gravity, laws of physics don’t change depending on circumstances. The third law of physics applies to every action our body produces.

myth about low back pain

That’s right, even walking.

When you walk, jog, run, or any other motion that has your foot impacting the ground, all of the force you place into the ground comes back into your leg. These are call ground reactive forces. Now God, in His infinite wisdom, knew this would happen so he built an absorption mechanism into the foot called the spring mechanism. When you strike the ground, the arch of your foot acts like a spring and absorbs most of the ground reactive forces, dissipating them and transferring them into the next step. How cool is that!

What’s not so cool is when your foot doesn’t do this anymore and you lose the spring mechanism of the foot. Maybe you’re flat footed, or maybe your arch is too rigid and it doesn’t move well. Whatever the case may be, if the spring mechanism of your foot does not absorb ground reactive forces, guess what does? Either your knee, your hip or… yup, you’re low back! So the pain you’re experiencing in your low back is actually coming from a problem in your foot!

You could treat the low back with every different treatment in the world and you will NEVER fix the problem because the problem is NOT in the low back, it’s in the foot.

So when you’re searching for solutions to you low back pain problem, please, stay away from Myth #1 of The Three Myths About Low Back Pain which is, “The Problem is In My Back Myth.”

Stay tuned for out next blog in this series titled “The End of Low Back Pain” where we will discuss Myth #2 in The Three Myths About Low Back Pain.

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About the author

Chiropractor in Exton with a Master's Degree in Applied Clinical Nutrition, Board Certification in Physiotherapy, and Biomechanics Expert. I am very passionate about solving pain problems and look forward to helping solve your pain problem today!