Netflix’s Glow Gives a More Realistic Representation of Back Pain on TV

Netflix’s Glow Gives a More Realistic Representation of Back Pain on TV

Back pain is one of the most common chronic ailments for Canadians, affecting approximately four in five adults within their lifetime. It most often affects adults between the ages of 30 and 50, but anyone can be affected, regardless of age or gender. The causes may vary, from illness to injury, but the most common causes of back pain tend to be mechanical such as twisting the wrong way or lifting something that’s just a hair too heavy. 

Despite how common these injuries can be, we still tend to see some very problematic portrayals of back pain in the media. Often played for laughs, the severity of a back injury is seldom taken seriously. Similarly, back injuries are often quickly written off a show or out of a character’s arc in a film, which makes it seem like a problem quickly solved. 

Take this scene from Modern Family, for instance. The sitcom often capitalizes on physical comedy for laughs. No great surprise, after all, it’s a sitcom! The scene plays out in the aftermath following a neighbour’s house burning down. Everyone rallies and organizes a neighbourhood drive to try and get them some extra resources to help in the interim. But while they’re moving around boxes at the beginning of the episode, patriarch Jay (Ed O’Neill) throws out his back. He spends the rest of the episode in pain, but it’s used to fuel other comedic moments like telling son-in-law, Phil (Ty Burrell), that he loves him. 

We tend to think of casual portrayals of injuries as harmless. But the problem comes from their ubiquity, where most of what we see with injuries or ailments is played for silly laughs and is passed off as not being so serious. That’s where the more realistic portrayals of back pain come into play. 

** Spoilers ahead from the latest season of Glow. **

In the latest season of Glow on Netflix, Tammé (Kia Stevens) suffers a back injury. The pain keeps her out of the ring for a while, but as the pressure mounts to perform, she turns to pain killers to help keep her up and moving. Unfortunately, this turns into an addiction, worsening her situation. Stevens is one of the only professionally trained female wrestlers on the show and was likely able to pull from her personal experience in such situations, where “the fine line between addiction and pain management is often blurred.” 

The sad reality is that this isn’t so far fetched. Misuse of pain medication is actually quite common, whether that person initially struggled with addiction or found themselves too dependent on the medication’s help to stop taking them. It’s also possible that the pain may be permanent, leading to long-term disability and immobility.

The realities of back pain are not as cut and dry as the movies or television would have you believe. So it’s important to take such ailments and injuries seriously when they occur. If you or a loved one are struggling with back pain, don’t wait. See your physician as soon as possible and get the help you need to get back on your feet.   

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