Low back pain is the second most common reason patients visit their primary care physician. It’s the type of pain that can range from annoying to downright debilitating, and can cause you to miss out on activities you enjoy, and sometimes work. Returning your quality of life is a priority for Puneet Aggarwal, MD, a back and sports medicine expert with Carolinas HealthCare System.
Dr. Aggarwal and Michael Agnone, PT, of Carolinas Rehabilitation, take on five surprising myths about low back pain.
“I should stay in bed to rest my back.”
While initial rest helps early injury recovery, prolonged bed rest and inactivity can cause higher levels of pain, stiffness and disability. Gentle, early activity such as walking and easy stretching before slowly moving into normal activity is better for your back. You can limit your activity, but just don’t stop completely.
“I should always sit up perfectly straight.”
Sitting in a neutral position is best. Properly positioning the pelvis so that the low back is aligned will maintain proper posture, reduce stress from discs and soft tissue, and allow muscles to perform activity with less stress. Avoid prolonged sitting. Be sure to get up and move once or twice every hour.
“I can no longer participate in my favorite activities.”
Most people can find ways to return to their favorite activities. By managing your lower back pain, you can modify activities to your level of comfort. Whatever physical exercise you prefer should be done on a regular basis.
“Don’t lift heavy objects.”
It’s not how much you lift but how you lift that’s crucial. Use proper mechanics. Keep the object close, bend your knees and keep your back straight with your head up. Be sure to use your legs to lift the load and turn using your feet (not twisting back). You should only try to lift what is reasonable for you. How much you can lift does vary from person to person.
“Firmer mattresses are better.”
While choosing a mattress depends on personal preference, your goal should be to keep your back aligned and supported while maintaining comfort. Mattresses that are too hard or too soft can cause low back pain. Research shows that adults with chronic low back pain who slept on a medium-firm mattress for 90 days had less pain than those sleeping on firmer mattresses. When shopping for a new mattress, lie down in your normal sleeping position to determine what type is best for you. No medical studies have shown that memory foam mattresses are better for back pain.
If your back has caused you pain consistently for two to four weeks, you should see a doctor. Call 704-863-HURT to schedule an appointment with Dr. Aggarwal or one of our board-certified physicians. Our eight Sports Medicine & Injury Care clinics are conveniently located throughout the community and feature 24-hour scheduling.
About the authors:
Dr. Puneet Aggarwal is the medical director of Carolinas HealthCare System Sports Medicine & Injury Care. He specializes in interventional pain medicine, sports medicine and spine care. He is one of only a few physicians who are board certified in pain medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and sports medicine. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys playing tennis and racquetball.
A NATA-certified athletic trainer and board-certified orthopedic physical therapy specialist, Michael Agnone, PT, is the center manager of Randolph Road and Moutain Island Lake outpatient clinics for Carolinas Rehabilitation. He also coordinates the physical therapy sports medicine program. Agnone works with Myers Park High School and coordinates physical therapy outreach with local high schools and athletic trainers.