It is extremely common to see degenerative changes in your spine on imaging, but this does not mean these changes are the cause of your pain.

Debunking back pain myths

September 18, 2019 BY

BY DR AIDAN MILL

Do I need a scan on my back? The answer is most likely no.

The majority of people fear the worst when experiencing back pain and immediately feel the need for a scan to see what is causing their pain and to assess the damage.

Nearly all back pain is not serious, and it is quite common for pain to last anywhere between two to six weeks before resolving.

While scans can be very useful (and necessary) in certain circumstances, most of the time they cause more harm than good.

What do I mean by that? Research looking at people with low back pain revealed some interesting findings by comparing those who had scans versus those who did not.

The group that had a scan were found to take longer to return to work and activity than the group that had no scan.

The scan group were also more worried about their pain, which then led to more instances of unnecessary invasive procedures such as surgery or injections.

It is extremely common to see degenerative changes in your spine on imaging, but this does not mean these changes are the cause of your pain.

Studies have shown that it is equally common to see these degenerative changes in people without back pain as it is in those with back pain.

Just as wrinkles occur on our skin as we age, wrinkles in our spines are just as common and nothing sinister.

For example, studies showed that in 50-year-olds who had no back pain, 80 per cent were found to have disc degeneration and 60 per cent had disc bulges in their spines.

So next time you hurt your back and start to panic, take a deep breath and relax as it is more than likely nothing serious and will resolve in a short period of time.

It is always a good idea to seek advice from a qualified health practitioner if you are in a lot of pain or if symptoms worsen, but once they have ruled out anything serious, it is important to keep active and stay positive.

Dr Aidan Mill is an osteopath at the Health Creation Centre in Ocean Grove.