The Truth About Back Pain

In short, you probably don’t need an MRI, strong drugs, or back surgery.

If you’re like most people that we’ve seen for Physical Therapy, then you’ve suffered from back pain at some point in your life.  Statistics show that, currently, 80% of the population have had at least one run in with some type of pesky back pain.  And, unfortunately, chances are good that the way that you handled the back pain wasn’t the best possible solution.  All too often, people go for high-tech tests, heavy drugs, or surgery too soon.

I get it, the appeal of getting the “quick-fix” is very strong.  All a back pain patient really wants is to be rid of their back pain as quickly and as efficiently as humanly possible, especially when that back pain is causing muscle spasms, pinched nerves, and an overall decline in daily life activity.  But we’d seriously like to stress the following:

When it comes to back pain, less is more


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Skilled Physical Therapy care is the best non-invasive, exercised based therapy that’s PROVEN to get rid of back pain prevent recurring symptoms in the future


Aggressive tests and drugs can actually slow your recovery while also being a complete waste of your time and money.  Now we’ve previously outlined what you SHOULD do for your back pain.  So let’s also take a look at the top common mistakes that patients make when treating their back pain.

Mistake: Rushing To Test

The truth is that back pain sufferers that get X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs within a month of the start of back pain don’t get better faster and might, actually, get worse.  But why does this happen?  These scans, more often than not, only show insignificant abnormalities that aren’t really the cause of any problems but can lead to unnecessarily aggressive, and possibly physically invasive, care.  In addition, worrying about these small issues can also have the negative affect of increasing one’s perception of their pain, leading to a patient becoming hesitant about staying active, which is a key to back pain recovery.

Mistake: Lying Down

In the past, the “go-to” recommendation for back pain was bed rest.  However, since 2010, the new, revised back pain guideline is that patients that were advised to stay active reported less pain and a faster recovery.  Patients are now advised to resume normal activities as soon as possible and are cautioned against staying in bed for more than four days.  This is why it is EXTREMELY important to get in to Physical Therapy as soon as possible after back pain starts, because a Physical Therapist can properly guide you through low-impact activities, such as stretching, to help you get back to normal activity.  As you progress, Physical Therapy will continue with proven programs that include strengthening exercises and patient education to help you both get rid of the pain and stop it from recurring.  

Mistake: Taking Opioids

According to current statistics, doctors prescribe powerful and potentially addictive narcotic pain drugs to approximately 1/3 of back-pain sufferers.  But the effectiveness of these drugs has come into question in recent years.  Consumer Reports cites a recent study wherein back pain sufferers that take opioids report more disability after six months compared with those who don’t.  In addition, numerous recent studies are now proving the addictive nature of these powerful drugs.  

If you’re looking for a proven, reliable way to get rid of your back pain, you NEED to get right in for Physical Therapy.  Through all the controversies surrounding these listed mistakes that people make when dealing with back pain, Physical Therapy has endured as the most statistically proven, non-invasive method to getting rid of back pain.

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Dr. Asha Koshy is a Physical Therapist and co-owner of Complete Physical Rehabilitation in Jersey City and Elizabeth, NJ.

She is a McKenzie certified back pain Physical Therapist specialist, an LSVT BIG certified specialist for Parkinson’s Disease, and also specializes in treating Vestibular conditions relating to vertigo, dizziness, and other balance disorders.

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