Common Misconceptions

Too often in practice we hear things that our clients say that are either completely incorrect, antiquated in their theory, or the thing we hate most, something they have been told to mislead into coming back for treatment they may not actually require from other health care practitioners. We want to put a stop to it. So here are the main ones we hear with a brief explanation of why they are often incorrect….

Your back is not out and therefore it cannot be cracked back in. 

Clients still come in and tell me that their “back is out” and they need it “put back in”.  When I promptly tell them not to move as I am calling an ambulance I am often greeted with a very confused look on their face.  As I then explain to them the only time your back is actually likely to be “out” or “out of alignment” is after a very significant trauma is placed upon your body or if you have a condition like a spondylolisthesis.  Either way we are not going to be the people who can “put it back in” for you – we are not surgeons and I would not trust anyone else.

You have a scoliosis……and that is the reason you get pain and do not move well.

Guess what? So do most of us… least to some degree. How else do you think we manage to fit all of our asymmetrical organs into our bodies. The fact of the matter is a lot of people live with at least a mild scoliosis on a daily basis and rarely get pain. This is because our body is an incredibly robust organism and is amazing at compensating for imperfections. Even people with what would be considered a “perfectly” straight spine get pain too if they don’t move.  And therein lies the key…..MOVE. Don’t dwell on your structure. You are who you are and it’s very hard to change your spinal curves once you reach skeletal maturity. Instead, worry about it’s function. Two people who have not let their significant scoliosis affect them in any way are Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet over 100 metres and Lamar Gant, a power lifter who holds the world record for a power to weight ratio deadlift. Imagine if those two got hung up on their scoliosis.

You blame your posture.

Really? What even is a perfect posture? Who decided that one posture is better than another? Most people I have seen have this magical vision in their head of a person with nice, even flowing “S” curves and that if only they could somehow manipulate their body into this position then they would have no pain and stiffness. I have some good news for you……your posture is fine. Your stiffness and associated pain comes from the fact that you don’t move enough. There is nothing wrong with spending time slumped at your computer or standing with all your weight on one leg. The problems comes from spending too much time in this position. How much time is too much? Well that will depend on how well your body is conditioned to being in those postures. Believe it or not, those people with those imaginary perfect postures still get pain. So what is the secret to not letting your posture cause you problems? MOVE…MOVE…and MOVE some more. The best thought you can have about your posture is that your best posture is your next posture.

Your disc bulge causes your pain.

Possibly….but did you know that bulging discs are a part of the aging process. A study by Brinjikji et al (2014) Am J Neuroradiol put people without back pain into a CT or MRI machine and here is what they found :

Age (years)Disc degenerationDisc bulge

So just because you have had a scan and it showed you have a bulging disc, it doesn’t necessarily mean that is the cause of your pain. In fact, often it isn’t. So don’t get hung up on your disc bulge every time you get back pain. Make sure you see a highly skilled therapist who can make the correct diagnosis for you.

You have osteoarthritis and that is why your back is always so bad.

Have you read the paragraph above? Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that is more common the older we get.  I have seen people with severe degeneration still move incredibly well and have very little to no pain.  We understand now that the key to managing degeneration is to move….often. And if you haven’t moved much for a while it may cause some pain initially. But if you can move in a controlled way as directed by a therapist, tha movement slowly becomes easier and less painful. Think of it as an incredibly rusty gate to which you have applied just a little bit of WD40. As you slowly move it back and forth it starts moving further and further…..but still sounds creaky. Eventually though the gate starts to swing freely without too much creaking. The same thing can happen with our back.

-  Dr Vaughan Saunders

B Sc (Clin Sc) M Hlth Sc (Osteo)