Myth Busting! Common Back Related Myths We Hear Regularly
- My hips go out of alignment all the time
Our hip and sacroiliac joints are some of the most stable joints in our body. They DO NOT subluxate or dislocate easily. The amount of force required to dislocate a hip is so significant, most of the time a high velocity motor vehicle accident is to blame. The sacroiliac joints pretty much don’t ever dislocate, even with high velocity collisions or trauma. This type of injury certainly doesn’t happen regularly, nor does it happen with your everyday low back pain episode. The effect of back pain and the resulting muscle guarding can make the person feel as though they are a little out of whack, but true hip or SIJ subluxation or dislocation would require an ambulance straight to hospital and not have you walking into the physio clinic.
- Also, my back needs to be put back into place
Nope. Same as above. Your spine is supported by many structures both active (e.g. muscles) and passive (e.g. ligaments) and it is not like a bunch of separate blocks stacked on top of one another waiting to come out of alignment. These symptoms and the feeling of being ‘out of alignment’ can be a result of muscle guarding and subconscious offloading of the irritated structures. Your spine is STRONG!
- I have a leg length discrepancy and this is why my back hurts
First off, a leg length discrepancy needs an X-ray to properly diagnose. So if you’ve not had one and you are relying on the advice of someone, then you may not actually have a leg length difference. Even so, while you may have a leg length discrepancy, it might not be significant enough to actually cause any issues. A true leg length discrepancy needs to have a greater than a 2cm difference in length compared to the other leg before it requires any intervention. Furthermore, if a true difference is apparent it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the main cause or even a contributing factor to your back pain.
- My back hurts because my glutes don’t work and hamstrings are tight
Your glutes always work otherwise we’d have a lot of trouble doing day to day activities such as getting up from a chair and picking something up off the ground. Your glutes may be weak, and that could plausibly be a contributor to your back pain but there is no evidence to show that there is a causative relationship between glute strength and low back pain. Likewise for hamstring length. They may be tight and/or weak, but there isn’t any evidence to show this is the reason why you’re experiencing a back pain episode. Every case is different!
- I’ve had a slipped disc for the last 20 years
Discs don’t slip, simple as that. This was (and unfortunately sometimes still is) a way of describing that a disc has bulged or herniated. It gives the illusion that the spine is a tower of stacked blocks stabilised by jelly (discs) that can, as we talked about above, easily fall apart. This is absolutely incorrect. The spine is a very stable structure and your discs are extremely robust and attached very firmly to the above and below vertebrae. THEY DON’T SLIP ANYWHERE! Also, for those people who have had a previous disc injury (bulge or herniation), there’s some recent evidence that even the severe injuries can heal within a few months! So that back injury you suffered 20 years ago shouldn’t still be hanging around giving you grief. Great news!