When you have got back pain its very easy to worry that there is something seriously wrong. In western cultures we are very anxious about the human spine, we think it is weak and vulnerable. This can lead to a common problem called catastrophising. This means worrying that something terrible has happened or that dreadful things will happen in the future as a result of having a back problem. Often people develop very real anxiety about not being able to work in the future, some even fear that they will end up in a wheelchair or be able to care for themselves.
This is often made worse by the use of medical language.
Most of us working in health care would agree that we share and understand a language that is confusing and complicated to many people.
There are times when medical words can seem very frightening. For example lumbar spondylosis simply means X-ray findings of changes in the spine which are common and often occur as we age. Most people have these changes as they age but I often meet people who are really worried about this as it sounds so serious.
Many people I meet have heard or been told things about their back that has worried them.
You may have been told this yourself. If you don’t understand what these terms really mean it can cause you to feel nervous, upset and fearful of movement. This can make your back pain more of a problem.
This confusion and fear can also lead to catastrophising about the future. If this sort of misunderstanding is combined with beliefs that back pain is a really serious problem then it can lead to lots of very unhelpful behaviours such as fear avoidance and withdrawal from work and social activities. I have met many, many people with simple lower back pain who hold grave fears that they will one day be in a wheelchair or may never work again.
I explained the difference between the two things and reassured her that that her diagnosis was not the same thing at all. I have rarely seen someone so relieved. She became less anxious about the future, less fearful of movement and started a programme of paced exercises. She began to get back in control of her back problem.
A simple thing like this can make a huge difference.I suggest you talk to your health care provider about your worries and fears.
Read more about Psychosocial Yellow Flags