12 Spooky Myths About Your Spine

Authored by: Dr. Ehsan Jazini

Myth #1: The Cracking in my Neck and Back is Dangerous.

Fact: No, the cracking sound is actually the joint fluid within the individual joints in the neck and back that are being suddenly shifted from one area to the other; similar to what happens when you “crack your knuckles”.

Myth #2: Having an MRI is Enough for My Doctor to Diagnose Me.

Fact: While an MRI is essential to view the soft tissues and the nerves in the surrounding areas around the spine, it is important for patients to have new and up to date x-rays so physicians can assess the structural stability of the spine, see and measure any curvatures in the spine, check for any fractures, and check for a broad assessment of disc health.

Standing x-rays are crucial for the physician to be able to assess how the spine reacts under the force of gravity, where an MRI allows for a more in depth view of the disc and the safety of the spinal cord.

Myth #3: Drinking Water Can Restore My Disc.

Fact: Unfortunately, drinking water or fluids will not help to restore the fluid in the disc or its height. However, there are many non-operative and operative options available here at Virginia Spine Institute to help with addressing issues related to discs, especially when they are the source of pain or compression on nerves.

Myth #4: I can Realign My Spine Without Surgery

Fact: The spine cannot be realigned without surgery. However, there are important core strengthening exercises to help support the spine. These exercises will offset the loss of structural support due to the damage to the facet joints, discs, or bone.

Myth #5: I Won’t Be Able to do Physical Activity After Spine Surgery.

Fact: That couldn’t be further from the truth. We have established a program called Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) to help mobilize our patients immediately after surgery while they are still in the recovery unit. In conjunction with physical therapy, we want to get our patients back to enjoying their favorite activities and living a fulfilling life.

Myth #6: My Tremors are Cause by My Spine.

Fact: Tremors are usually not caused by an injury to the spine. There are unknown causes of tremors, as well as other neurologic causes of tremors that are associated with disorders of the brain. Thankfully, at Virginia Spine Institute we have a neurologist on our team that can help to identify all the sources of your tremors.

Myth #7: My Spine is Causing the Swelling in My Arms and/or Legs.

Fact: Injury to the spine does not directly cause swelling in the arms or legs. Swelling is usually related to other medical conditions, and we encourage you to visit your primary care doctor if you are experiencing it. Swelling in the legs post spine surgery may be related to a blood clot, and needs to be evaluated immediately.

Myth #8: Running is Bad for my Neck and Back.

Fact: Running and staying fit is generally very important for maintaining good bone health and muscle conditioning. Very arduous running (aka marathon training) does place repetitive impact on all the joints throughout our body, and may cause excessive wear and tear. For patients who are looking to stay fit – light aerobic running is great. Lower impact aerobic exercises like swimming, elliptical, and cycling are also encouraged.

Myth #9: A Herniated or Bulging Disc can be Pushed Back in Place.

Fact: A herniated disc cannot be pushed back into place with manipulation. However, the majority of disc herniations do heal with time, and excellent conservative treatment options like physical therapy can assist with the healing.

Myth #10: I Can Stop, and Even Reverse, The Arthritis in My Back.

Fact: Arthritis is a multifactorial process that involves one’s genetics, nutrition, environment, and work. While it cannot be stopped or reversed, we can work on fitness and core strength to help offset the damaged goods. Regenerative therapy has also helped with treating the pain associated with arthritis in efforts to avoid surgery.

Myth #11: Gaining Weight Does Not Cause Back Pain.

Fact: The spine is meant to hold your body upright. As you gain more weight, especially in the abdomen your center of gravity shifts forward, and your spine has to do a lot more extra work to maintain you upright. This additional weight places a tremendous amount of pressure on your muscles, joints, dics, and ligaments surrounding your spine. Overtime, this leads to excessive wear and tear and increased risk of back pain through your life.

Myth #12: I can Correct My Posture by Wearing a Brace.

Fact: Wearing braces in the absence of a fracture, or without your physician’s recommendation to maintain posture, will lead to muscle atrophy. The brace will become a crux that will lead to further worsening of your posture. Building up the muscles around your spine through core strengthening is the main avenue to help with posture.

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