New Year, New Start and all that! It’s the time of year to work yourself up into a frenzy of dieting, avoiding booze and getting fit of course.
Though, perhaps your plans of getting fit are thwarted by worries about certain physical ailments? Well, in this blog I hope to dispel a few myths about the body and give you the confidence to go out and find an activity you would love.
“I had a MRI that showed a bulging disc so I’m worried that exercise will make it worse”
MRI can be very useful for many things but rarely is it helpful for back pain. Numerous studies have shown that MRI has no predictive value for low back pain (LBP). A recent study, (Kim, Lee, Lim 2013) in which 100 people, with no low back pain, had a MRI, over 80% had disc herniation (disc bulge) and other physical changes. This suggests that many of these findings are likely to be ‘normal abnormalities’ and not causes of LBP.
“I have a weak core/a deep curve in my back/a short leg/tilted pelvis/scoliosis
This comes up again and again by well-meaning but misguided practitioners who blame these factors for causing pain. However, there is strong evidence that they do not contribute to back pain (except perhaps in very extreme cases) Hamberg-van Reenen 2007.
“I’m too old!”
This is certainly not true! A study in 2009 of almost 35,000 Danish twins between 20 and 72 years of age found no differences in low back pain frequency between younger and older individuals.
A fascinating study conducted by a Harvard Psychologist Langer in 1981 followed 8 men in their 70s who were asked to spend 5 days in a home in which everything they experienced was from the period 20 years earlier. All their surroundings: what they ate, wore, listened to and experienced was from the 1950’s. They were told to really live as if they were in their 50s again. They were tested before and after their stay and they all showed improved suppleness, manual dexterity and posture compared to a control group. Perhaps most surprisingly was that even their sight had improved!
“I’m too overweight”
Contrary to common belief, obesity has a low association with low back pain. Studies show that higher body mass (an average of 30 pounds) is not harmful to the discs (Leboeuf-Yde 2000).
An important point to make here is: if you have unexplained pain you must first have a medical assessment to rule out serious injury or illness. Then, if you are thinking of taking up a new physical activity, find something you would enjoy and build up gradually. Yes, it may hurt a bit at first as your body adjusts to its new routine, but give it time, and practice and soon you will be enjoying pain-free exercise.
Much of the evidence cited here is taken from Lederman 2010 “The fall of the postural-structural-biomechanical model in manual and physical therapies: Exemplified by lower back pain”.
CPDO Online Journal pp1-14 www.cpdo.net