It’s All In How You Say It!

There is a common language that is often used by people to describe back issues!! We tend to hear statements like “my back went out”, “my disc slipped”, “my back is unstable” and “I have a disease called degenerative disc disease”. And I don’t know how you feel about it, but we feel like these things sounds incredibly frightening! Who wants to have a DISEASE and who wants to be unstable! And unless you took your back out to the grocery store or your disc hit a banana peel, the terms may not necessarily provide the most accurate information! So…we are here to clarify and perhaps offer some more accurate language that may not be so terrifying and just might provide a little more hope for healing!!

“My Back Went Out.”

Where did your back go exactly? When someone throws their back out, what is occurring is a significant muscle strain, typically caused by lifting a heavy item or bending the wrong way. The muscle can tighten up or begin to spasm, and the spasm is what causes the pain. It is typically an acute pain and although the pain may vary, it typically remains localized to the lumbar spine or the low back.

Less Frightening Language: “I have strained my back muscles”

“My Disc Slipped.”

A “slipped disc” refers to a disc in the spine that has lost its normal shape or consistency. Your discs are you shock absorbers between your vertebra and if the gelatinous inside of the disc moves into the outer ring, you may experience pain, tingling and numbness that may travel, muscle weakness and/or a burning pain. The disc may have different levels of herniation and the symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the injury.

Less Frightening Language: “I have a mild, moderate or severely herniated disc”

“My Back is Unstable.”

“Your lower back is a superb feat of engineering—it’s strong, weight-bearing, and sturdy, yet highly flexible with a range of motion in all directions” (Jagannathan, Spine-health, 2019). It is one thing to have a system that is not in equilibrium but quite another for that system to be unstable. Yes, the back may be hypermobile or hypomobile, muscles may be weak or tight, injuries may be cause for dysfunction, but studies show that the force required to create real instability are massive.

Less Frightening Language: “My back is weak”, “My back is inflexible”, “My back is prone to injury”.

“I have Degenerative Disc DISEASE.”

Let’s talk about the most frightening word ever…disease! No one wants a disease…ever! I mean, if you look up the definition of disease “any harmful deviation from the normal structural or functional state of an organism, generally associated with certain signs and symptoms and differing in nature from physical injury” …then one could conclude that a change in discs, that typically occurs with aging, could be a disease…but really? The word disease seems like a very scary way to say “wear and tear”!

Less Frightening Language: “I have age related changes in my discs that are causing pain”.

Our language can be so important when we are talking with our patients and the information that healthcare providers give needs to be done with care and careful thought! If the words seem frightening, we encourage you to feel comfortable asking more questions! Sometimes a change of language and some careful explanation can change the entire course of your injury outcome!

#choosinglanguage #properterminology #lessfrighteningwords #carefuluseofwords #herniateddisc #degeneration #backpain #backinjuriesexplained #abodyinmotion #ABIM #physiotherapy

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