Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about neck and back pain. Making sure you have credible information is essential to having the best chances for recovery.
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Myth: Rest is the best way to treat my pain.
Reality: A short period of bed rest may help reduce acute pain of the neck or back, but doctors generally advise against more than 1 or 2 days of bed rest. In fact, resting and general inactivity can actually cause more pain.
Inactivity leads to muscle stiffness and other harmful effects, which in turn can create more back pain or neck pain and lead to an unhealthy cycle of pain/inactivity/more pain/more inactivity. For most spinal conditions, physicians recommend a long-term rehabilitation program that includes active physical therapy and exercise.
Myth: The spine is fragile and easily injured.
Reality: The spine is a well-designed anatomical structure. The surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments provide a great deal of strength, flexibility, and support for the spine.
While there are some exceptions (such as an unstable spinal fracture), keeping your spine healthy requires proper conditioning, including stretching, strengthening, and aerobic exercises—even when you have a spinal disorder.
This doesn't mean that your spine is indestructible. Activities that can harm the spine include poor posture and body mechanics (e.g. improper lifting technique), and other generally unhealthy factors, such as smoking, lack of nutrition, or lack of or disordered sleep.
However, you don't need to worry that your spine is too fragile for you to engage in spine-friendly exercises.
Myth: The doctor didn't find anything wrong, so the pain must be all in my head.
Reality: Pain is always real. The physician may not be able to find the anatomical cause of the pain, but the pain still exists. And for chronic pain (e.g. pain that lasts more than 2 or 3 months), it's important to proactively treat the pain. While psychological factors (such as depression and sleeplessness) will often need to be included as part of a comprehensive treatment program, it is also important to search out nonsurgical care treatment options that can help alleviate the pain.
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Myth: My pain is so bad, there must be ongoing spine damage.
Reality: With chronic pain, the level and extent of pain is not related to the level and extent of damage or injury in your neck or back. For example, severely degenerated discs may not produce much pain at all, and discs with just a little degeneration can produce severe pain.
The short-lived acute pain of an injury provides us with a protective reflex, so we can avoid things that cause tissue damage (e.g. we remove our hand from a hot burner). However, chronic pain does not have the same meaning or purpose. It is not protective and does not indicate ongoing tissue damage or injury.
Dealing with back pain or neck pain is a long-term vocation. The last thing you need is incorrect or misleading information to confuse the situation. At Spine-health, we strive to provide you with reliable, in-depth information to help you better understand, prevent, and seek appropriate treatment for your pain.