The Low Back Pain Epidemic: PART I

Introduction:

Low back pain is one of the leading causes of work-related disability and activity limitations around the world, as well as one of the highest reasons for rising healthcare cost. Startling statistics also have been released in regards to the climbing incidence of chronic low back pain, or pain greater than 12 weeks. From 1996 to 2006, the incidence of people who experience this chronic low back pain climbed from 3.9% to 10.2%. Recent research has also shown that up to 33% of individuals whom have experienced low back pain, experience it again within one year (Delitto, et al).

How can this be? There have been advances in medical technology including improved surgical procedures, imaging techniques, and medications. We would assume the incidence would decrease with all the improvements we have made with regards to treatment. Well, it has not! So, what are we doing?!

Low back pain is widely under-understood and ineffectively managed by many healthcare professionals. I am not saying that people with low back pain are not being helped to a certain degree. What I am referring to is that there ARE effective means of treating low back pain that are WIDELY UNDERUTILIZED. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about low back pain and explaining some of the most important aspects of the epidemic, talking about symptoms, and some effective treatments. This series is to not only help the general public understand a bit more about what has been proven effective, but also to help remind and / or educate fellow practitioners that a shift in our treatment styles NEEDS to happen. Let’s raise the awareness of the seriousness of this epidemic that is wasting the precious dollars of our healthcare system!

References

Delitto et al. “Clinical Practice Guidelines linked to the international classification of functioning, disability, and health from the orthopedic section of the American Physical Therapy Association”. J Orthop Phys Ther. 2012;42(4):A1-A57

ANATOMY

The back is made up of a web of intricate structures that include the five lumbar vertebrae and the sacrum, the various joints between each vertebrae, ligaments (bone to bone attachments) which serve as supporting structures, wide array of muscles that can span across many vertebrae, discs (everyone loves to talk about their discs) which help provide cushion and mobility, and an intricate weave of nerves and blood vessels.

The anatomy of the low back is important to understand for the sole reason of knowing that there are a TON of structures that are in there! It is impossible to assess these independently and determine if one specific structure is causing someone’s pain.

Next week’s post will focus on explaining the more recent understanding of a more effective treatment approach to low back pain.

Stay tuned folks, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. EDUCATION IS THERAPEUTIC.

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