Myth No. 1 - You Need a Flexible Back - BUSTED!
Stretching is often over-prioritised in exercise and for back problems, and too much of a good thing is not a good thing at all!
You would think that a more flexible back (or hamstring muscles) would help with lower back problems, but in fact, static stretching can actually worsen an existing problem. More flexible backs are generally more prone to back pain and dysfunction, and static stretching before exercising can actually reduce muscle strength rather than prevent injury.
Loose joints which are not accurately and precisely controlled are unstable. Stability is absolutely essential for long term spinal health, and requires accurate and controlled motion of spinal joints, and very importantly, ENDURANCE.
Myth No. 2 - You Need a Strong Back - BUSTED!
Having bigger muscles and being able to lift heavy weights doesn't actually protect you from experiencing back problems. If fact, many back problems can be attributed to faulty nerve and muscle programmes which result in over-contracture and compression in certain sections of the spine. For example, slouching forward about the lower in a flexed posture can be a common postural problem. Think about it… We slouch when we're standing, sitting, walking, reading, cooking… and as a result, the muscles over-compress the tissues around the spine. The same over-contraction can occur around spinal curves that deviate away from the ideal curves. These muscles can be contracting too strongly! Strength can be a good thing, but people with back problems tend to lack endurance and adequate control.
Myth No. 3 - "No Pain, No Gain" - BUSTED!
The old saying, "No pain, no gain" is simply not true when it comes to back pain. Having a few sore muscles from a workout is one thing, but working through spinal pain can make things much worse. Chronic spinal problems lead to changes in the sensory nerves that convey information to the brain, and one thing that happens when the tissue continues to be irritated is a lowering of the pain threshold. There are also changes that occur in the brain which weaken the brain's grey matter. Like advanced aging, you can imagine how difficult it is to shift the problem completely as it becomes programmed into your nervous system. It doesn't help that culturally, we are led to believe that once the pain is gone, everything must be ok... Or if we take pain killers, we can keep training as though nothing were wrong. But there is a massive difference between suppressing symptoms and healing a problem! And don't forget… just because there's no pain one day, doesn't mean there isn't an underlying problem. We've all heard about "the straw that broke the camel's back". Sometimes musculoskeletal conditions, like many over conditions, can be very misleading when it comes to symptoms, and over time, a small problem can become a big one!
The good news is that there are exercises shown to be effective in preventing and correcting back injury, aimed at building stability and endurance, and also exercises which should definitely be avoided for optimal spinal health... but more on that later!