The age-old pain in the back!

low-back-pain

You are not alone. In fact, low back pain is one of the most common health problems in the United States. Here is some data you need to know about Low Back Pain.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that low back pain is the fifth leading cause of illness and injury in the United States. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide.  It is estimated that approximately 8 out of 10 people at some point in their lives will experience low back pain[1,2]. The prevalence of low back pain ranges from 11% to 84%, depending on the study. It is more common in women than men. and increases with age. According to data from the National Health Interview Survey, the percentage of adults with back pain increased with age [4]:

  • from 28.4% for those aged 18–29
  • and 35.2% for those aged 30–44
  • to 44.3% for those aged 45–64
  • and 45.6% for those aged 65 and over.

Back pain is a very common workplace injury. In fact, according to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a survey of nine states in the US showed that back injuries averaged 21%. This means nearly one out of five workers had their compensable workday cut short because he/she suffered from some sort of Degenerative Lumbar Disease or Sciatica nerve damage which can be expensive both financially as well as emotionally. The best estimate shown by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, the largest underwriter of workers’ compensation insurance in the United States, is that the mean cost of compensable back pain is around 6000 dollars per case[3].

The Mayo Clinic has compiled some statistics on low back pain:

  • Mayo Clinic reports that low back pain is one of the most common reasons for visits to the doctor’s office, accounting for more than 26 million visits annually.
  • Low back pain also ranks as one of the top 10 reasons for hospitalizations in the United States.
  • According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, low back pain is responsible for more than 2 million missed workdays each year.
  • $100-200 billion annual cost to the U.S. economy in medical expenses and lost productivity and wages[5].

Low back pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including muscle or ligament strain, herniated discs, arthritis or injury, and trauma. Although most patients improve quickly with minimal treatment, proper evaluation is imperative to identify rare cases of serious underlying conditions. Certain red flags should prompt certain treatment or referral to a spine specialist, whereas others are less concerning. Serious red flags include significant trauma related to age (such as automobile accidents in older adolescents and adults), major or progressive motor or sensory deficit, new-onset bowel or bladder incontinence or urinary retention, loss of anal sphincter tone, saddle anesthesia, history of cancer metastatic to the spine, and suspected spinal infection. Each of these findings requires urgent or emergent referral to a spine specialist. Potential examinations and treatments based on the presenting history are discussed.

Some tips to prevent or alleviate low back pain are:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight is important – Working out regularly and eating right will help you get there faster!
  • Additionally, using good posture when sitting or standing up can be crucial in ensuring that your muscles don’t give out on you early because they were overworked.
  • Taking frequent breaks from time spent at desks by getting up every 30 minutes – helps prevent soreness caused by lack of movement while also giving yourself opportunities to enjoy outside activities to get some fresh air & sunshine.
  • Make sure to wear supportive shoes if necessary because it’s important for foot health.
  • Maintaining your bone health by taking blood tests regularly.

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