"Oh, my aching back!" This common complaint can signal many different
medical problems, both physical and psychological. If your back hurts,
don't just complain, talk to your doctor. While most back pain is treatable
with rest or over-the-counter medications, other forms require x-rays, prescription
medicines, and physical therapy. Some causes of back pain are more serious
and are best identified-and treated--sooner rather than later. And while back
pain is never a good thing, it may have a positive outcome if it becomes a wake-up
call for better back care.
Back pain is very common, affecting more than 9% of the adult population (23
million Americans). In one study, work-related back pain was reported
by 1.5% of workers (4 million Americans) and 2% of workers missed days from
work due to back pain. The direct costs associated with back pain and related
disability exceed $15 billion million per year. While new therapies are frequently
introduced, many remain unproven. Back pain sufferers are often willing to try
anything to relieve their pain, but it is important to get a diagnosis
first. Certain treatments take on fad status, but fail to prove effective
in clinical trials. Among these treatments are Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve
Stimulation (TENS) units, lumbar corsets, back belts, biofeedback and traction.
Treatments such as chiropractic, magnet therapy, acupuncture, exercise and massage,
however, have been shown to be effective in neuromuscular back pain management.
Interestingly, one study in the medical journal
Spine found that treating the psychological stressors of people
with back pain was another effective way to reduce their back pain. And,
while most overweight patients with back pain don't want to hear it, weight
loss itself can be very helpful to reduce back pain.
Created: 2/11/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.