Back Pain 101: CBS News Almost Got It Right
By Jesse Cannone
The mainstream media far too often gets health reporting dead wrong. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when I ran across this CBS News Early Show HealthWatch episode on back pain from earlier this year.
In Back Pain 101: Separating Fact from Fiction, CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton did a great job bringing up some common myths about back pain and debunking them. There’s a lot I agree with… but there’s also at least one major point Dr. Ashton overlooked.
Watch the short video segment here then continue reading below to find out what I agree with… and what Dr. Ashton missed.
Myth #1: Only Overweight People Get Back Pain
Totally agree… like Dr. Ashton says, quoting the National Institute of Arthritis, 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives (if not multiple times)… and it most certainly doesn’t discriminate based on size, gender, age, and so on.
Yes, extra weight can place strain on your back. But so can sitting too long in an office chair at work every day… maintaining poor posture… a strain from improper motion… and many other risk factors.
Myth #2: Back Surgery Is the Best Medical Option
Dr. Ashton says if you develop back pain and go to your first doctor who says you ought to have surgery, get a second opinion. I’ll go a step further… run, don’t walk, to find a knowledgeable provider who isn’t so quick to grab the scalpel.
Ever hear of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome? It’s the only category of surgery with a failure rate so high it warrants its own name for bad results. Surgery should always, always, always be the very last resort. Remember that the vast majority of back pain cases never require back surgery.
Dr. Ashton brings up the fact that “studies have shown 90% of back pain sufferers will get better with no treatment at all within 3 months.” I like that she specifically stated that even those with chronic back pain should only consider back surgery after trying every other less invasive treatment.
Not that anyone wants to just deal with back pain for up to 3 months… so she went on to suggest several back surgery alternatives, some of which I can fully support including yoga, acupuncture, and what I consider the most important, finding the root cause of your back pain.
Myth #3: Stay In Bed Until Pain Goes Away
Dr. Ashton said one or two days of bed rest may be helpful for an acute back pain injury, but healing shouldn’t require more bed rest than that. Staying in bed just makes your muscles get weak.
I agree that only a short rest period will be helpful. In fact, staying in bed too long can be counterproductive to your recovery from acute low back pain. According to a number of studies, increasing your time in bed can actually keep you in pain longer… and possibly contribute to chronic back pain.
Myth #4: Exercise is Bad for Your Back
One of the BEST things you can do for your back is stay in shape with proper exercise. Like Dr. Ashton says, “the best way to treat back pain is not to get it at all” by strengthening your core.
Even after you have back pain, exercise can be an important component of treating it. For example, in our Lose the Back Pain System, specific muscle imbalances which underlie almost every case of back pain are identified then corrected through targeted stretching and exercises.
Dr. Ashton also shares these other great tips for avoiding back pain:
- Always stretch before exercising
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Sleep on your side (as opposed to on your stomach)
- Practice proper lifting
So what did Dr. Ashton miss?
If you go back to about the 1:16 point in the video, you’ll again hear Dr. Ashton mention how 90% of back pain sufferers get better within 3 months even without treatment.
But what you didn’t hear is how, unless your underlying cause of back pain has been dealt with, you may have as much as a 90% chance of getting that back pain again.
Now to be fair, Dr. Ashton had a lot of ground to cover in under 4 minutes. And to her credit she did mention finding the root cause of your pain as an alternative to back surgery at one point. But that point really needs to be emphasized. Because if you really want to get rid of your back pain — and keep it from coming back — you absolutely must correct the problem that caused it in the first place.
You see, except in cases of trauma, we don’t just suddenly “throw out our back” — it’s a process that eventually reaches a tipping point. It’s only at the point of pain that we typically become aware that a problem even exists.
So how do you find and correct that underlying problem? That answer can take a book to explain. Fortunately, I’ve already written it… and I’d like to give you a free copy. Get your own free copy of The 7-Day Back Pain Cure today.
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Deyo RA, Diehl AK, Rosenthal M. How many days of bed rest for acute low back pain? A randomized clinical trial. The New England journal of medicine. 1986 Oct 23;315(17):1064-70.
Waddell G, Feder G, Lewis M. Systematic reviews of bed rest and advice to stay active for acute low back pain. The British Journal of General Practice. 1997 Oct;47(423):647-52.