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Ask A PT! Don’t Compare Your Back Pain to Mine!


Hi Brad Conder here. Today, I’m gonna be talking about how people like to compare their back pain. And usually, I like to tell people, “Don’t compare your back pain, for multiple reasons.” And this really, kind of, applies to all pain in general just because, a lot of times when you have pain, you’re not really for sure what’s going on, and you’re gonna compare it to other people. You’re gonna ask them what they’ve been through if you know they’ve had back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain. So, a lot of times you wanna talk to people with similar feelings. But, today, I wanted to talk about some of the issues with doing that as far as comparing your back pain, because not all back pain is the same.

90% of Americans have Back Pain at one time of their lives, but all back is pain and Needs to be treated Differently. 

So there are some common misconceptions when it comes to back pain in general, like, for example, that when you have back pain, you need to get a MRI, you need to actually find out what’s going on. And MRIs have actually been shown not to be really accurate as far as what’s going on in your back, because one of the things we know about MRIs is that, especially when you, kind of, have back pain is that you can have something like a bulging disc and not really have any pain. And most people will have bulging discs and disc pathology over the course of their life, and what we’re starting to learn is it can be some normal things.

So, it’s one of the common misconceptions about back pain. And also, along those lines, when people have a bulging disc, it actually has a specific treatment from a doctor that we’re expecting. Now that’s not always the truth as well because everyone’s back pain is different. And mostly what I want to talk about today is the fact that everyone’s back pain is different, and it’s most people are going to have different signs and symptoms. And the reason that’s important is because when you do go to get treatment for this, it needs to be specific to your problem.

I tell people all the time, “When you come in and see me, I could have a bulging disc and no back pain, and you could have no bulging disc and a lot of back pain, so it’s very, very different.” What makes the difference as far as, like, your treatment goes, you need to get a actual physical exam to see what your signs and symptoms are from your physical therapist or from your doctor. And make sure that it correlates to what is actually going on with your life and what we need you to do to get that better. So, that’s some of the biggest things you want to kind of consider when you’re going through a severe condition like back pain is that not everybody’s the same, and you want to make sure that you’re getting someone that can actually evaluate what your course of treatment should be.

Because everyone’s different, and like when I have two people with the exact same symptoms, they could have the exact same kind of body frame but their work is different, their exercises and how to respond to it is different, and also what they need as far as the hands-on manual therapy is different too, so it’s very confusing sometimes, and that’s one of the reasons why back pain, I think, is one of the harder things to treat is because everybody thinks there’s the same treatment out there, but actually, in reality, all back pain is different, no matter what a MRI shows or what anybody tells you. All back pain’s different. You need to actually be evaluated for your particular situation and given the correct plan of care to get to where you want to be.

And also, another misconception is there’s gonna be a fix to your back pain. There’s really no fixes, so when we learn what’s going on to with your particular situation, you need to also get a plan as far as how to manage this for the rest of your life. You can live pain-free, you can be okay even with severe conditions, as far as disc bulges, disc herniations, and even surgeries. But you gotta learn how to take care of your body. It’s almost like a diet, sometimes, as far as taking back pain. You actually have to learn how to get it better from your therapist. Use therapy to get your pain down to a good level and then figure out how to take care of it the rest of your life. So, I know it can be scary to still take care of this type thing that is very confusing. I always recommend at least asking for advice from a therapist.

You can talk to a therapist on the phone, like you can call us at 509-3136. We can talk on the phone about your situation, or you can look on the website, physicaltherapylocal.com for some free resources to learn more about your condition.

Have a good day.