Like a toothpaste tube
At the end of my recent teaching tour in New Zealand, a seminar participant handed me this piece on postural pain from a local magazine.
“If you imagine bending a toothpaste tube, that is the same as bending your spine. When the tube has been bent into a position for a long time, it causes toothpaste to squirt out of the tube. That’s what happens to a disc in someone’s back – it squirts out the back when it is put under pressure for a long time. That places massive pain on the nerves. If people are getting to that degree, they might first have to have surgery before they can be assisted.”
S Harvey, quoting “postural structural specialist” M Owens in Technology’s a Pain in the Neck, Mindfood, December 2015.
It was quite deflating to read this after three weeks on the road teaching evidence based neuroscience education, pain stories, metaphor and transformative metaphor. Backs and necks are not like toothpaste tubes, discs don’t squirt, pain is not something which can be placed on a nerve. The need for spinal surgery is extremely rare.
How can we help?
This style of health writing is still common and health writers clearly believe they are helping their readers. How can we best reassure people that this is inaccurate and unhelpful and how can we help health journos get it right ?