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Low back pain is a common complaint. However, just because it is common does not mean it is not serious.

Low back pain by the numbers

According to the American Chiropractic Association, eight out of every ten people in the United States will suffer from back pain during the course of their lives. It is a leading cause of disability, preventing those who have it from working and doing the things they love.

Low back pain is the most common reason for missing work. In fact, if you average out all the time off that is attributed to back pain, it would amount to two full workdays lost for every full-time worker in America.

Back pain is the third most common complaint at the doctor’s office and while most incidences are due to non-serious injuries (meaning, non-life-threatening), a small percentage of those who experience it will develop into a chronic condition.

Studies show that the incidence of disability due to chronic back pain has increased by more than 54 percent since 1990. It costs Americans more than $50 billion in healthcare costs every single year, and that doesn’t take into account lost wages or decreased productivity.

One in three adults states that back pain has a negative effect on their everyday lives, but only one in ten will ever find out the primary cause of the pain.

The good news is that 90 percent of acute back pain is resolved within six weeks, but the downside is that most will have a recurrence within two years.

What causes low back pain?

There are many causes of low back pain. It can be caused by misalignment, injury, or poor ergonomics, but it could also be exacerbated by lack of exercise, poor overall health, and obesity.

In today’s world, 75 percent of workers sit at desks much of the time. Lack of movement tends to decondition joints and muscles, resulting in fatigue and stress on the lower back.

How low back pain is treated?

There are a multitude of interventions for low back pain, including chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, and physical exercise. Self-management is the goal for most patients, with a particular focus on physical activity. In some cases, psychological therapy is recommended as we know that chronic pain has a measurable effect on the brain.

When all else fails, surgery can be an option, but this can often lengthen the time it takes to fully recover, and it is not always successful.

Self-care remedies for back pain treatment include cold pack and heat applications, topical analgesic balms, avoiding reinjury, eliminating heavy lifting, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)

A physical therapist can apply a variety of back pain treatments, such as heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and muscle-release techniques, to your back muscles and soft tissues to reduce pain

Medications are often prescribed to alleviate the pain, and this has become a significant driver of opioid addiction and prescription drug abuse. Prescription opioid pain killers are highly effective for short-term back pain treatment, but if used over an extended period they can become habit-forming, leading to long-term health and psychological issues that are challenging to overcome.

Research is ongoing, and the range of minimally-invasive interventions, like steroid injections, stem cell therapy, and spine arthroscopy, may offer hope to many.

Chronic pain can quickly take over your life, changing everything you have come to know about yourself and your life. If you suffer from chronic low back pain, we can help. Reach out today to learn more about our programs and to find out how to get started.