Put your back out or popped a rib?

Has anyone ever told you that they have put their back out or popped a rib or slipped a disc? Of course they have, this is the sort of language we hear all the time!

What mental image do you immediately conjure up on hearing that a back is “out”, “popped” or “slipped”? Do you come up with mental images of joints no longer lining up – a spine zig zagged with discs that have moved all over the place?

Before I became a chiropractor I imagined that when my back went out it sort of became wonky with joints that no longer matched up. The term “popped a rib” brought to mind a rib that has dislocated itself from where it should be.

If you go to A&E and tell them that you have put your back out this is what they imagine

If you ring us and tell us over the phone that you have put your back out this is what we imagine

The imagination of the listener is contextual – it depends on their background and experience. This is why I try very hard not to tell people that I will just realign their spine and pop that rib right back where it belongs. Instead I take care to explain I am examining the function of joints and interested in returning this function to normal as gently as possible. Normal joints don’t cause pain.



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