The sole purpose of getting diagnosed is to rule out the nasty stuff. That’s it. Nothing else.
I’m talking about the really rare things like cancer, infections, fractures and giant disc bulges that compress the whole spinal cord – not the kind of stuff you want – and like I said, it’s lucky this stuff is very rare. (only 1-2% of cases)
So, what else causes back pain?
Another measly 5% of back pain is caused by nerve root irritation. Think sciatica … a fire-like burning sensation that shoots down the back of your leg like an electric shock and makes even the most polite people curse …
So, what causes MOST back pain?
The great majority of back pain (more than 90%) comes from things like joints and ligaments … and the problem is we often can’t be sure which is which (but don’t worry, it doesn’t matter that we can’t really tell the difference … as you’ll soon learn)
So, most people with back pain have what we call Non-specific Low Back Pain.
Funnily enough, people can have pain without there being any injury at all.
What you need to wrap your head around is that there is just no way of accurately diagnosing the cause of non-specific low back pain … at which point you say:
“What about my medical scan?”
To which I answer, too many people get sent off for scans and told that their back pain is caused by whatever the doctors find on those scans.
Which is complete BS (yes, BS)
There are many, many studies looking at MRI scans of people who have never had back pain at all.
I will repeat that.
Never had back pain AT ALL.
And yet the results are startling.
Many of these people who have NO PAIN AT ALL have disc bulges, arthritis and a whole bunch of other spinal conditions.
So what does this mean for you?
Well for starters, disc bulges and arthritis are normal ageing changes of the spine – kind of like grey hair.
Many people have them and have never felt a day of pain (except for wanting their hair not to be grey)
Scans are great at showing stuff, but they’re not great at telling us how relevant that stuff is to your pain.
There is no way of knowing how long those things have been present for.
If you’re not careful it’s easy to be misinformed about what is causing you back pain, which can then lead to ineffective, costly treatment and more pain and worry that is not necessary.
In the meantime here is a stretch that many of my one-on-one clients find really helpful. Check it out here
Dr. Clinton Logue, Osteopath