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5 Common Myths About Low Back Pain

Low back pain is common. At some point in their lives, 80% to 90% of the adult population will experience low back pain.

Unfortunately, studies show that many people with low back pain don’t get treatment that aligns with best evidence-based practices.

Below are 5 common myths associated with low back pain.

Myth 1:

Spinal manipulation (mobilizing the joints in the spine) is the best method for treating low back pain.

A study showed that exercise was proven to be more effective than manipulation (only 10% required manipulation).

Myth 2:

Ultrasound and electrical stimulation are proven to aid recovery from low back pain.

These types of passive treatments provide no long-term benefit, do not treat the underlying problem, and do not accelerate healing time.

Myth 3:

Low back pain is caused by inflammation.

Inflammation does occur in certain conditions, and may be present when low back pain is acute; however, the majority of low back pain is mechanical and can respond positively to mechanical treatments (eg, stretching, prescribed exercise, aerobic exercise, stabilization, posture education).

Myth 4:

Low back pain is caused by arthritis.

While studies show that arthritis is present in over 90% of those between the ages 50-55, only 10% experience arthritis-related pain. Arthritis is associated with aging, but not always associated with pain.

Myth 5:

You should rest and avoid or stop activity if you are experiencing low back pain.

It is recommended to exercise and get active and mobile as soon as possible.

Additional Resources


Chou, R. Qaseem A. Owens, D. Shekelle, P. Diagnostic Imaging for Low Back Pain: Advice for High-Value Health Care from the American College of Physicians. February 1, 2011, Annals of Internal Medicine. 2011 Feb 1;154(3):181-9

Murtezani A, Govori V, Meka VS, Ibraimi Z, Rrecaj S, Gashi S. A comparison of McKenzie therapy with electrophysical agents for the treatment of work related low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2015;28(2):247–253.

Ebadi S, Henschke N, Nakhostin Ansari N, Fallah E, van Tulder MW. Therapeutic ultrasound for chronic low-back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(3):CD009169.

Rubinstein SM, Terwee CB, Assendelft WJ, de Boer MR, van Tulder MW. Spinal manipulative therapy for acute low-back pain; an update of the Cochrane review. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013;38(3):E158–E177.

Albert HB, Manniche C. The efficacy of systematic active conservative treatment for patients with severe sciatica: a single-blind, randomized, clinical, controlled trial. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2012;37(7):531–542.

Oliveira VC, Ferreira PH, Maher CG, Pinto RZ, Refshauge KM, Ferreira ML. Effectiveness of self-management of low back pain: systematic review with meta-analysis. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2012;64(11):1739–1748.

McKenzie R. Treat Your Own Back. 9th ed. Minneapolis, MN: Orthopedic Physical Therapy Products; 2011:5–9.

Arthritis Foundation. Accessed March 28, 2018.

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