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Common Myths about Back Pain

Myth: Spinal discs can “slip”.

Spinal discs are securely anchored to the vertebra above and below it.  Dense ligaments and spinal musculature also limit movement of the disc, however, the internal disc material can move within the confines of the disc, much like water inside a balloon.  If pressures on the disc are excessive enough in one direction, the outer layer of the disc can begin to deform causing pain.  Excessive pressure may result in disc ‘bulging’ or ‘herniation’. 

Myth: Arthritic changes will ALWAYS be painful.

Degenerative changes can take place in any joint due to “wear and tear” and some people are more likely to develop arthritic changes in one joint or another due to genetics, activity level and body type.  Not all arthritic joints have to be painful, and many patients may be unaware of arthritic changes due to the fact that they are asymptomatic.

Myth:  “I have back pain because I have a bulging disc”.

Disc changes such as herniations or bulges can certainly be painful; however they do not have to be.  Many degenerative changes can be present in the spine without being a generator of pain. Recent research has found that 9 out of 10 people over the age of 50 will have some degenerative changes including arthritis, disc bulges/herniations or disc thinning.  However only approximately 30% of those people have pain directly related to these changes.  Many structures in the spine can be a “pain generator”.

Myth: “Physical Therapy will not work for my condition”.

Depending on the condition and the severity of the condition, Physical Therapy may be a means of managing your symptoms conservatively.  Following a comprehensive evaluation, the physical therapist can develop an individualized program to fit your needs and reach YOUR goals.  Techniques can include manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, functional training, and modalities for pain management.  Research continues to support physical therapy for many conditions affecting the cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurologic and musculoskeletal systems and has even been helpful in managing chronic pain conditions.

Myth: “A physical therapist will not understand my condition”.

A physical therapist has an extensive background in human anatomy and all systems of the body including the cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and neurological systems.  Education occurs at a masters or doctoral level and recent education includes medical screening.  Treatment of these symptoms can take place in many settings from inpatient to outpatient, skilled nursing and home care.

Myth: “You should see what I do at work, I don’t need to exercise”.

Depending on the type of work that you are performing on a daily basis, normal daily and work activities are not performed at a level that will produce muscular strength/endurance or cardiovascular conditioning.  An exercise program developed specifically for your goals will provide much more beneficial results.

Dr. Stephen DiGiambattista is a Physical Therapist with North Pocono ProCare Physical Therapy in Moscow.  If there are questions, concerns or you have ideas for future topics, please feel free to contact Stephen at

Promoting Healthy Lifestyles, Back Pain, Injuries, Physical Therapy


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    Exercises have pretty much eliminated the pain in my shoulder, which makes me very happy!

    - Lisa B., ProCare Physical Therapy Patient
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    Coming to ProCare, I've learned many different stretches and exercises to keep from having this pain any longer... I recommend anyone with any type of pain or discomfort to begin their road to comfort and recovery with the ProCare team!

    - Katie B., ProCare Physical Therapy Patient
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    - Michelle S., ProCare Physical Therapy Patient