5 Myths and 4 Truths About Back Pain Treatment

5 Myths and 4 Truths About Back Pain Treatment

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Myth 1. Sit ups prevent pain.

Sit ups are NOT good for your back. They give you more pain, not less. If you want pain do sit ups.  Sit ups, ab crunches and all the rest of them will only create more pain. I know we all want a flat belly, but we’re not supposed to use our bodies in this way repeatedly. A sit up is part of a normal movement that we all need to do, to get up off the floor. But doing it repeatedly tips the hips back, shortens the spine and fixes the rib cage. It also forces the neck forwards and down relative to the body. When we do lots of situps we keep that form or habit into how we sit and stand for the rest of the day. The main muscles of the trunk/torso remain overly contracted, but we can’t tell because we’re doing it all the time.

What’s the solution? Just don’t do them! Cardiovascular exercise is better, where your whole body is engaged in the activity and it’s real eg running (not on a treadmill), swimming or even walking.

Myth 2. Sciatica nerve stretches are effective sciatica treatment.

Sitting on a bench or table with your leg stretched moving your head up and down in time with your foot. You can also add in the lower leg. The stretch can also be done on the floor lying on your side. This exercise is total rubbish. Absolute rubbish. The chances of this helping your sciatica is slim to none. Infact, in my experience it makes it worse! Many people with sciatica are not going to simply look up, they will pull their heads back and tighten the neck. 

The leg muscles will just keep doing or tightening and increase the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Not release it. The angle of the leg only encourages pressure and work on the lower back. For those with sciatica will have very weak lower backs and it's unlikely to impossible that they can move the leg out without tipping back the hips. All of these movements work together against the natural functioning of the body. This is simply the most stupid exercise of them all.

Myth 3. Core stability is important.

Sitting on a ball expecting to get rid of your pain? Good luck with that. It’s true that you will be engaging some of your postural muscles. Big deal. You engage postural muscles when you do more or less anything. Core stability doesn’t actually get you to engage the muscles that need to work. You only tighten the muscles that are struggling to keep you upright. These muscles need to let go to allow the proper functioning of the body. Not tighten up more! Unless you want more tension and pain that is.

Core stability is a myth, there is something much more primal and easier in the body to use to achieve good body use. You can see it in babies, animals and women that walk across the dessert with pots balanced on their heads. They aren’t trying, tightening or tensing to do it. The Alexander Technique can teach you how to do this in a similar way. Although you can do it without carrying heavy objects on your head!

Myth 4. Stretching your hamstrings is effective low back pain or sciatica treatment.

I popped my hamstrings in 3 places when I slipped my discs. That made it an easy target for physios and other experts to tell me I had to stretch it. Well I stretched my hamstrings under their guidance and increased the stretching under their supervision. These were some of the top physios in the country. My hamstrings might have gotten slightly longer. Maybe. Nothing ever really changed. 

Now I did find out later on in Alexander Technique that I needed to lengthen that muscle. But I needed to do it by releasing it, not stretching it. And it needed to happen in coordination with the other muscles in the leg. It’s the direction known as knees forward and away. Releasing doesn’t mean collapsing. If you just stretch the hamstring, after a certain point it makes no difference. Your muscles just tighten up more to protect itself and you actually just get tighter. Hamstring stretches are going to tip your hips back and cause a whole loads of other problems up and down your spine.

Myth 5. Kegel or Pelvic Floor exercises are good for you.

Just like sit ups and sciatic nerve stretches, these are only going to increase the pressure on the muscles surrounding the sciatica nerve. This is going to contribute to things like piriformis syndrome and sciatica, not lessen it. It might feel good especially if you've gone through childbirth or something like that. But it's an unnatural movement to encourage repeatedly in the body and reduce the freedom that you need in your hips.

Truth 1. Lying down in semi supine is incredibly good for your back.

Lying down in semi supine is the absolute best thing for your back. This is without doubt the best form of sciatica treatment there is, except having alexander technique lessons. Having slipped my discs 7 times after my first recovery, I managed to get the discs back in and sciatica ended by lying down in semi supine. I cannot recommend this enough. If it doesn’t work for you by following the guide on my site here do come see me because it's an experience. But it’s worth having a go yourself to see if you can get some relief.

Truth 2. You need to breathe. Hot and cold compresses help this.

Breathing is so important. Hot and cold compresses work for most people because it simulates and stimulates the breathing movements in the body. The heat expands the muscles and the cold contracts them. If you think about the movement of the ribs they expand on the in breath and contract on the out breath. Cold temperature makes the muscle contract. Heat makes the muscle expand. If you look at a baby or animal (eg dog or cat) you can see this happening naturally. 

When we apply a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel for 2 mins to our back and then frozen peas in a towel for 2 mins and repeat 3 times we create this movement which helps our ribs and therefore spine, release. You can also follow your breath in and out to create the same effect. I go into this in more detail and there are more efficient ways of doing this, but it’ a good starting point to help you get out of pain.

Truth 3. Walking is good if you can do it.

Go for a walk. Walking, if you are able to do it, is very good for your body. It helps you to breath better than any other exercise I know. It creates a natural breathing movement in the body when we continuously walk for about 20 mins or more. Only do as much as you can though. There are times when I’ve been unable to walk very far, there’s no point overdoing it.

Truth 4. Life is not going to stop for your injury, sciatica or any other pain.

You have to keep going, you can't stop doing stuff. But that doesn't mean you can't take your time over things and think them out before you do them. It doesn't mean you can't take breaks. We create a lot of our own problems when we treat ourselves like machines just doing and doing. Many gardener's backs come my way as a result of not thinking to take a break. Digging flower beds and strimming hedges can be broken down into 20 min blocks with short 5-10 mins breaks. If you are doing a task that aggravates your back then you will never start to see the habits you get into if you just work continuously. You have to stop every once in a while to give any of those habits a chance to cease.

About the Author Edward Fisher

Hi, I'm Edward Fisher and I believe that everyone can have a life free from back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and many other musculoskeletal pain related conditions. I recovered from slipped discs and sciatica. I spent 10 months being unable to walk. After 3 months of Alexander Technique I was walking again. Now I show others how to do the same thing for themselves.

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