Back Pain: Unmasking Instagram Myths with Science

 By  Shane Dowd, CES, CMP

We've all been there, scrolling through Instagram...

Stretches, exercises, Doctors...then suddenly you see a post claiming that a slight misalignment in your pelvis is the root cause of your back pain.

It's a simple, appealing idea, isn't it?

But hold onto your seats, and maybe your backs, because we're about to dive deep into the real science behind back pain.


Debunking Instagram's Back Pain Myths with Science

Instagram is filled with posts suggesting that a tiny 1.7-degree misalignment in your pelvis is the villain behind your back pain.

It's a compelling narrative, isn't it?

A single, identifiable cause that can be 'fixed' to eliminate your pain.

But is it really that simple? Or is it just another case of 'Insta-sham instead of reality?

Let's take a closer look...

According to a 2020 scientific paper by Cholewicki et al., back pain is not a one-cause problem. It's a multifactorial issue influenced by a constellation of factors. These include biomechanics, yes, but also psychological and social factors.

It's like a party where everyone's invited, and they all bring their own unique flavor of trouble. 😭

Think about it: Your back pain might worsen after a long day at work or during a particularly stressful period. Or maybe it improves when you're relaxed and happy.

That's because your physical health, mental health, and social environment all play a role in your experience of pain.


The Role of Biomechanics

Biomechanics, which involves the mechanics of body movement and neuromuscular control, undoubtedly plays a role in the development of back pain.

But it's not the sole factor. It's just one piece of the puzzle. And let's be honest, who ever completed a puzzle with just one piece? 🤔

For example, lifting heavy objects incorrectly can strain your back and contribute to pain. However, correcting your lifting technique alone may not completely eliminate your pain if other factors are at play.

It's like trying to fix a car engine with just a wrench. You're going to need more tools in your toolbox.


The Biopsychosocial Model

This brings us to the biopsychosocial model...

This model suggests that our physical health, mental health, and social environment all influence our pain experience. It's like a three-legged stool - if one leg is off, the whole thing wobbles.

For example, stress at work might increase your perception of pain, while spending time with friends might decrease it. Understanding this complex interplay can help us manage back pain more effectively. It's like being a detective, but the mystery is your own body.


The 5 Golden Keys for Back Pain

Integrating knowledge from various fields to improve back pain management is a challenge...

It's not about finding that magic bullet but about understanding the complex interplay of factors contributing to back pain.

This might involve working with a team of healthcare professionals, including doctors, physiotherapists, and psychologists, to address the different factors contributing to your pain. It's like assembling your own personal Avengers team, but instead of fighting aliens, you're fighting back pain.

For me, in my journey out of back pain, I discovered 5 critically important things (my “5 Golden Keys” for back pain) that helped me heal my back without drugs, pills, or surgery. These 5 things also correspond with the significant areas mentioned in this scientific paper.

So, let’s dive into each so you can use them for your own back pain:


1. The Golden Keys - Mechanical Factors

The first of my 'Golden Keys' was understanding my own body mechanics...

I had to learn how to lift weights and exercise with better technique. Yes, technique matters. But it isn't to say that being 1.7 degrees out of alignment will cause your back to explode. It’s just that there is such a thing as better technique and posture.

Optimizing these factors can be a game-changer for a pain-free, bulletproof back.


2. The Golden Keys - Psychological Factors

The second ‘Golden Key' to fixing my chronic back pain was understanding the psychological factors...

Stress, anxiety, and depression can all exacerbate back pain. I had to learn how to manage my stress and maintain a positive mindset.

For me, this involved practices like meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques. Once I learned these techniques, I was hooked. Because not only can they help back pain diminish, but they can also positively influence other areas of your life.

For me, I meditate 2 hours a day and attend longer 10, 20, 30, and 45-day meditation retreats - but that’s also because of all the OTHER benefits I get from meditation.

If you’re not ready for such a “deep dive,” even a few minutes a day of mindfulness meditation has been shown to lower stress levels, decrease pain, and boost your mood.


3. The Golden Keys - Lifestyle Factors

The third ‘Golden Key' was making lifestyle changes...

For me, the journey out of back pain included becoming more physically active, improving my diet, and getting enough sleep. These changes helped reduce my back pain and improved my overall health.

For example, today, I actually play a “game” with myself to try to eat only 2 a day (skipping dinner), eat tons of fresh fruits and veggies, drink lots of water, and keep track of my sleep. This helps me maintain a healthy weight and body fat levels, keep stress and inflammation down, and keep my back and body feeling good.


4. The Golden Keys - Social Factors

The fourth ‘Golden Key' was understanding the role of social factors...

Having a strong support network and positive social interactions can help manage back pain. I made it a point to spend time with friends and family and engage in enjoyable social activities. For me, this looks like hiking with friends, playing frisbee, basketball, and other sports, and spending quality time with the wifey. 

When I’m with friends, family, and people I love, I feel good. When I feel good, the psychological stress of a back issue doesn’t wear me down. And, ultimately, I recover quicker!


5. The Fifth “Golden Keys” - Mentors

The last 'Golden Key' involved educating myself about back pain by studying and practicing with the best therapists, trainers, and coaches I could find.

I consulted with doctors, physiotherapists, strength coaches, exercise scientists, and more.

I did exercises to strengthen my back and make my body more flexible. I read up on the latest research about back pain.

In a 5 year period, I saw over 30 different experts and spent over $26,000.

My goal was to learn the best techniques from the best people; the education was invaluable. Because now I know exactly what to do about back pain whenever it crops up. It doesn’t scare me like it used to.

Knowing how to fix any pain in your body when it arises is a VERY empowering life skill to develop.


The Journey Out of Back Pain

My journey out of back pain wasn't easy...

It involved a lot of trial and error, and there were many times when I felt like giving up. But by understanding the complex nature of back pain and addressing the various factors that contributed to it, I was able to overcome it.

For me, it was a bit like climbing a mountain. It's challenging…but the view from the top and the body you develop along the way make it worth the climb.

So, the next time you see an Instagram post claiming to have the one true cause of back pain, remember: it's not that simple.

Back pain is a complex issue that requires a comprehensive approach. Don't let social media oversimplify your journey to a pain-free back.

Because let's face it, if everything on Instagram were true, we'd all be living in beachfront mansions with perfect hair...

If you have back pain, and you want a 45-day “DIY” program to fix it, check out The Athletes Back below.




About The Author

Shane Dowd, CES, CMP is the owner/founder of He is also a sports performance & mobility coach specializing in injury prevention and flexibility for athletes.


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