Debunking myths about back pain

Uzo Ehiogu explains why a new CSP initiative on low back pain will help to open patients’ and commissioners’ eyes.

Imagine a conversation taking place somewhere today between a patient with musculoskeletal (MSK) problems and a healthcare professional. 
The patient sums up the discussion: ‘You are saying that because I’m in a lot of pain I must have a lot of damage in my back and that a scan will show the cause. I should avoid moving my back in case that makes it worse and definitely take no exercise, particularly weight training, right?’
Well, the evidence shows that would be the wrong message on every point. What’s more, such an approach is unsubstantiated and potentially harmful. Even though physiotherapists have been tackling these myths for years, they still prevail. 
As physiotherapists, we are ideally placed to convey accurate information that would debunk the ‘no exercise’ approach. 
Providing simple, accurate information can help to de-medicalise and puncture the myths surrounding these ubiquitous MSK conditions. We can thereby help to reduce pressures on NHS resources and sickness absence rates, boost productivity in workplaces and steer people with pain towards becoming more active and mobile.
The CSP has undertaken an important and timely attempt to produce informed, clear, accessible information for patients and healthcare practitioners alike. Designed by a panel of expert clinicians and the CSP’s professional practice unit, the leaflets can be used by physiotherapists to spread an important message to patients and service commissioners alike. For details, see 
The clear and positive messages, communicated in a brief, friendly format, are based on the latest guidance on managing low back pain and sciatica from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). The guideline was published after a consultation exercise took place earlier this year. 
The NICE guidelines and the CSP patient information leaflets will help to ensure that physiotherapists continue to lead the way in providing clear, accurate and positive messages to the millions of patients in the UK with back pain – many of whom consult us every day.
  • Uzo Ehiogu is head of physiotherapy at London Bridge Hospital.
Uzo Ehiogu is head of physiotherapy at London Bridge Hospital

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