Patient Misconceptions In Physiotherapy (Part 1..)

Misconceptions Heard In Our Physiotherapy Clinics (Part 1…)

Our physiotherapists, across any of our 5 clinical sites (Glasgow West End, Mosspark, Clarkston, Newton Mearns, & Kirkintilloch) have come to notice a trend whereby a handful of repeated misconceptions are heard from patients on a consistent basis. Here, we seek to sort the fact from what is often mistakenly taken for truth, as education and accurate understanding or pain mechanisms and symptom management are important if healing and symptom resolution is to be achieved! Let’s start with our first 5…

  • “Taking Pain Medication Will Only Serve To Mask The Pain”

This is a commonly held misconception, and one which needs addressed if the patient is to progress as desired. Born out of a healthy desire not to become continuously reliant of pain relieving medications, unfortunately however, this belief incorrectly views medication as simply a means of reducing pain levels. In fact, the reality is not to straightforward. Pain medication should perhaps be viewed more as a means to an end – if pain levels are more controlled, then the implicated body part can begin to be gently moved and strengthened in a more normal manner, thereby encouraging healing and recovery. Once this normal movement has then began to reduce symptoms naturally, pain medications can then be gradually reduced as symptoms allow.

  • “My Spine Is Out Of Alignment, & Needs Put Back In Place”

Simply not true. The spine is a hugely resilient, robust structure, and a therapist’s hands are nowhere near strong enough to affect the position or alignment of spinal vertebrae. Regardless, was a joint to be “out of place” in the initial instance, it would likely be a medical emergency, rather than a trip to your friendly local physiotherapist!

Following on from this point, this theory of an “out of place” spine is perhaps a misinterpretation of the reality that there is a huge variability of normal with regard to the shape, curvature, and alignment of our spines. As long as any given spine is somewhere on this spectrum of normal, then it is unlikely worthy of any concern – “different” doesn’t mean “abnormal”, simply not specifically in the middle of a very wide-ranging spectrum!

  • “I Have Bad Posture”

This I something we hear on a daily basis, an a challenging perception which is often incorrect and indeed irrelevant. Postural habits are often vilified as the cause of every ache and pain felt, however the opposite is actually very true! Naturally, the posture of a given demographic will be somewhat slouched, round-shouldered etc. considering the amount of time we all spend driving, texting, using tablets, watching television etc. nowadays. Our posture is the physical manifestation of the positions we assume most often on a daily basis, hence is a natural expression of our lifestyle. Yes, take regular breaks from your desk, break long journeys when driving, include a certain amount of shoulder and back strengthening and mobility exercises in your exercise routine, and generally stand straight with the shoulders pulled back. But let’s not focus on it too much!!

  • “How I Sit Is Causing My Pain”

This is true to a point – but rather than symptoms presenting doe to the posture you assume when sitting, it is more typically a case that symptoms present due to the period of time you actually sit for! Essentially, as long as we move regularly and change from whatever postural position we are sat in, the position we assume between times is often not all that important. For desk workers for example, taking a micro-break from ones desk on a half hour basis means that the position they sit in for that half hour if often of not such great importance. Essentially, it’s the lack of regular movement that is undesirable for our bodies, rather than any one particular position.

  • “My X-Ray Showed Marked Wear & Tear, And This Is Causing My Pain”

This perception is as commonplace as it is harmful and distracting. “Wear and tear” is absolutely normal throughout the body, including the spine, as we age. It is a natural occurrence, akin to developing grey hair and wrinkles. So the detection of “wear and tear” on x-ray or MRI should not lead to anxiety or a distrust of ones back. It may well be totally normal and incidental, and not at all related to the presenting condition. As demonstrated in the image below, many individuals with no pain will show degenerative findings, while many presenting with pain will show no significant degeneration. Ultimately, scan results are simply one part of the overall picture which your physiotherapist at K.M. Woods Physiotherapy will consider when concluding on a clinical diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan.


X-Ray Degeneration Findings

Empowering our patients with knowledge and understanding of their condition, as we at K.M. Woods Physiotherapy Ltd. opt for an approach of “safe and successful” over sexy.


Keep an eye out for Part 2, Misconceptions 6-10, over the coming weeks.