Back Pain Myths Debunked

Back pain affects eight-out-of-ten people at some point of their lives, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

However, there are many misconceptions about this common health problem.

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CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton debunked some of those myths on "The Early Show" Wednesday:

Myth: Only overweight people get back pain.
While being overweight can put you at high-risk, it is not the ONLY risk factor. As mentioned, eight out of 10 people are affected by back pain -- not everyone is overweight. Anyone can suffer from back pain. According to WebMD, eating disorder patients may suffer from bone loss and have back pain. Other risk factors for back pain are smoking, old age, stress and depression.

Myth: Back surgery is the best medical option.
According to a recent study, complex and sometimes risky spine procedures are often overprescribed for simple back pain, which can lead to higher costs and greater complications. It's increased 15-fold in just six years. Patients with back pain can improve their condition and overcome pain relief without complex surgery with physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication. According to another study from The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 90 percent of patients with low back pain will see their symptoms fade on their own within three months. The first course of treatment for patients with low back pain should be non-invasive.

Myth: Stay in bed until pain goes away.
You can rest for one to two days for an acute injury or strain, but anymore can cause the muscles to weaken and slow your recovery. If you are going to rest in bed, make sure you get up and walk a few minutes every hr to keep your muscles strong.

If you rest and don't feel better and experience pain with any of these symptoms: trouble urinating, weakness, numbness in your legs, fever, weight loss, you should go see your doctor immediately.

Myth: Exercise is bad for your back.
If you work your abs, your core, this could help condition the back muscles and stabilize the spine. Exercises like yoga can really be good for the back; it can help reverse the muscle weakness by strengthening the mid-section, which can help decrease the stress on the spine.

Ashton also shared how to avoid back pain with these tips from the National Institutes of Health:
Always stretch before exercise or other strenuous physical activity.
Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
Sleep on your side to reduce any curve in your spine. Always sleep on a firm surface.
Don't try to lift objects too heavy for you. Lift with your knees, pull in your stomach muscles, and keep your head down and in line with your straight back. Keep the object close to your body. Do not twist when lifting.
Don't slouch when standing or sitting. When standing, keep your weight balanced on your feet. Your back supports weight most easily when curvature is reduced.
At home or work, make sure your work surface is at a comfortable height for you.
Sit in a chair with good lumbar support and proper position and height for the task. Keep your shoulders back. Switch sitting positions often and periodically walk around the office or gently stretch muscles to relieve tension. A pillow or rolled-up towel placed behind the small of your back can provide some lumbar support. If you must sit for a long period of time, rest your feet on a low stool or a stack of books.
Maintain proper nutrition and diet to reduce and prevent excessive weight, especially weight around the waistline that taxes lower back muscles. A diet with sufficient daily intake of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D helps to promote new bone growth.
If you smoke, quit. Smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine and causes the spinal discs to degenerate.

Also, for women who are pregnant and experience back pain, Ashton said in most cases is limited and will resolve.

In most cases, according to the North American Spine Society, medication is not a good option.

Ashton said pregnant women should not use any medication during pregnancy without permission of her physician. She said some treatment options include learning exercises to support muscles of the back and pelvis, using supportive garments that may be helpful with certain causes of back pain in pregnancy and using spot treatments such as heat and cold. If your pain persists despite these measures, or you develop any radiating pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in your legs, Ashton said you should consult with a spine physician with expertise in women's health issues and/or pregnancy related disorders. They will be able to assist you in diagnosing and treating your specific problems.

For more back pain treatment options, go to our partner in health,, and search "back pain."