Back Pain in America
Are you one of the nearly 90% of American adults who suffer from back pain? Back pain is the second leading symptom for physician visits. Statistics clearly show the strain we place on our backs just by living day-to-day.
- About 80 percent of Americans will have one or more episodes of low back pain
- 1 in 7 adults each year suffer back pain lasting 2 weeks or more
- 5 out of 10 working adults have back pain every year
- Back pain is the number one cause of work-related disability
- More than 60% of teens experience back or neck pain by age 15
What Causes Back Pain?
A number of theories exist. The leading cause of back pain has to do with degeneration — or wearing down of one or more intervertebral disks. These disks act as the spine’s ‘shock absorbers. They provide strength and flexibility.
As people age, their intervertebral disks may degenerate and lose their normal operating properties. Disks may collapse, causing the spinal canal to narrow, and localized superficial nerves to become irritated – resulting in back pain. This scenario is known as degenerative disk disease.
How Does Back Pain Feel?
Pain affects people in different ways. Back pain usually originates from muscles, nerves, bones, joints or other structures in the spine. Back pain may appear suddenly or as a chronic pain. It can be constant or intermittent. It may stay in one place or radiate to other areas. It may be a dull ache, or a sharp or piercing or burning sensation. It may include weakness, numbness or tingling.
A complex network of nerves, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments interconnect in the spine. All can cause pain. Back pain is often be experienced as:
- Neck pain, radiating into the arm and hand
- Upper back pain
- Lower Back Pain, radiating into the leg or foot
- Tailbone Pain
Discovering the Source
One source of back pain may be the back’s skeletal muscle – including pulled or strained muscles, muscle spasms, and muscle imbalances. Synovial joints are another potential source. These are the sources for about one in three people with chronic low back pain, and in most people with neck pain following whiplash.
Among the several common sources and causes of back pain are:
- Spinal Disk Herniation (Sciatica)
- Degenerative Disk Disease
- Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease)
- Spinal Stenosis
- Others including trauma, cancer, infections, fractures and inflammatory disease
Because symptoms coming from different spinal tissues can feel alike, it is sometimes hard to diagnose properly without using diagnostic intervention procedures, such as local anesthetic blocks. However, disk herniation (sciatica) may be diagnosed without invasive diagnostic tests.
- Your doctor will start with a complete patient history. You’ll be asked to explain when and how your pain started, where you feel it, and what it feels like.
- Your doctor will give you a physical examination to help pinpoint the irritated nerve root. You may squat and rise, walk on your heels and toes, raise your legs straight and more.
- Because most patients with sciatica have compression of the L5 or S1 nerve roots, you may be given X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to confirm your diagnosis.
Treatment options are based on the stage of the condition – is it acute or chronic? Not all treatments work for all conditions or all individuals Some people may try several treatment options to determine what works best for them. Others may need only non-surgical therapies to manage pain. For 1-10% of patients, surgery may be the quickest way to feel better.
When treating back pain, David A. Vecchione, MD goals are to:
- Achieve the greatest reduction in pain intensity as quickly as possible
- Restore a person’s ability to function in everyday activities
- Help the individual cope with residual pain
- Assess the side-effects of therapy
- Facilitate legal and socioeconomic roads to recovery
- Keep pain to a manageable level
- Progress with rehabilitation, and eventual long term pain relief