There have been words of well-meaning advice and phraseology associated with medical conditions since time began. But with the advent of the internet age, there are even more myths and phrases circulating.

One piece of research suggested it can take up to 10 minutes to “de-google” a patient! In this blog I will try to de-bunk a few:


There isn’t, in fact, a medical term of Rheumatism. This is a phrase used to describe generalised wear and tear in joints. The correct terminology is Osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a normal change that happens as we age, occurring from our twenties onward. It is not always associated with pain. It is also just one type of arthritis – there are over 100 types of arthritis! They aren’t all associated with the ageing process.

Slipped disc

Wow, what images this must conjure up in your head!

Discs sit in between our spine bones and they don’t slip. They may bulge, and again this is a common occurrence and not always associated with pain. People without any back or leg pain (that can be a cause of a bulging disc) can show bulging discs on MRI scan.

Crumbling spine

Oh my word, how this must cause fear and anxiety for some people if they think their spine is crumbling! Again, it’s not!

This is heard sometimes when people talk about osteoporosis. It’s a condition where the absorption of bone by the body (a normal process) is greater than new bone growth, thereby causing an imbalance. This can be treated with exercise and medication. Osteoporosis is also often associated with an increased curvature of the spine. This can happen if there are wedge fractures in the spine and only then could there be pain; osteoporosis itself does not cause pain, nor curvature of the spine.

Trapped nerve

A bit of a pet hate for me, this one. Nerves don’t get trapped very often – you seriously know about it if it did! A complete loss of muscle power and altered sensation would be the result, caused by sudden severe trauma. Much more common is an irritated nerve, causing it to become inflamed and sending pain messages into the area of the skin that it supplies.

Moving will make my pain worse; hurt means harm; pain killers will mask any damage so I shouldn’t take them.

Pain used to be thought of as an indication of damage but we now know there are many associated reasons for experiencing pain. See Alan’s blog here. Pain can become unhelpful as it stops us moving but movement is essential for healing. As is sleep. Pain can stop us sleeping. So if pain is stopping you moving and/or sleeping, you need to take pain killers. If you can manage to move well and sleep without them, then that’s fine! Fear of movement can result in stiffness, resulting in delayed healing and aggravating the pain. Physiotherapists understand all the mechanisms of pain and take a holistic approach to help relieve it – it’s not just using pain killers, but they are a massive adjunct. And be rest assured – they won’t mask any serious damage – your body will still tell you if you push it too far.

I have back pain, I must rest

See above. Early movement is essential to start the recovery. Gradual increase in movement is vital – it’s finding a balance between doing too little and too much to generate healing but not to over load the new tissue. This is called optimal loading – it requires gradual increase in activity levels. A physio can guide you through this.

No pain, no gain

See above! Some pain is important to ensure loading of the new tissue, within your pain limits. But too much pain could be over loading the new tissue. Just like training for a marathon – start slowly and gradually build up. A better phrase is Know pain, Know gain!

I need a scan or x-ray to get a diagnosis

As mentioned above, scans and x-rays can show changes in bodies of people with no pain or mobility issues at all. Being told you have a bulging disc could induce fear of movement and exercise, leading to further pain and disability, making the problem worse. That bulging disc could have been there for years and not causing you any difficulty! Clinicians can use what you tell us alongside physical examination findings to diagnose the problem. Physios can diagnose without the need for costly and sometimes unnecessary investigations. Yes, sometimes they can confirm a diagnosis and the severity of it but only if the issue is not resolving and may need further management.

Are there any phrases, sayings or tips you have come across not listed here? Anything you’d like us to de-bunk?!

Contact us on 01642 205975 if you would like an appointment.