Myths About Neck and Back Pain

Despite its commonplace occurrence, there are many myths or misconceptions surrounding common back pain. Here are three examples:

  1. There is no such thing as a “slipped disc”. This commonly used term is simply incorrect. The disc may crack or bulge. This is itself can cause pain. If the crack is severe, the internal core material may be squeezed out and this is then called a prolapsed disc. Yet discs do not slip in and out of place like slippery bars of soap. Be wary of modes of treatment which claim to be able to pop your disc back in place.

  2. In most cases, X-rays offer no valuable information regarding common back pain. Normally, degenerative changes in our spine start occurring in our 20s’, and 95% of people by age 50 show degenerative changes on X-rays. It is incorrect to assume that in all cases, these incidental X-ray changes are causing our back pain. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has been overused in attempting to diagnosis common back pain. One research study revealed that only 36% of 98 normal volunteers had completely normal MRI! It is a sophisticated technology which should be used before surgery and to diagnosis non-mechanical back pain.

  3. Less than 10% of neck and back pain sufferers actually have a pinched nerve. The fact that your back pain radiates down to your leg does not automatically mean you have a pinched nerve or sciatica. The pain may simply be what doctors call referred pain. This means that the location of pain is not the location of the source or cause of the pain. A common example is when somebody has a heart attack, the pain can be felt in the neck and down the left arm away from the chest, which is the location of the heart. If it is a pinched nerve, the pain will be most disabling in you legs and arm, not your back and neck. If you find this confusing, don’t worry. As long as your therapist understands and is able to sort out the type of pain you have, he or she can institute effective treatment.