Treatment for Low Back Pain Should Begin Early

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 30, 2012 | Go to article overview

Treatment for Low Back Pain Should Begin Early


Byline: Andrew J. Yu, M.D., F.I.P.P. Illinois Pain Institute

Low back pain is the second-most common reason to visit the doctor, ranking only behind the common cold. Every year, a person's chance of suffering from low back pain is 20 percent. In addition, low back pain occurs in 85 percent of all people at some point during their lifetime.

The U.S. alone spends an estimated $40 billion a year for doctor visits and treatment for low back pain. This includes prescription medications, physical therapy, spinal interventions and spinal surgery. This rivals the medical costs of heart disease, stroke and cancer. It is no secret that U.S. health care is the most expensive in the world.

Risk factors associated with low back pain include age, smoking, gender and obesity. Job environment is also associated with increased risk for injuries such as heavy physical labor, repetitive work and frequent bending and twisting.

Moreover, a person in the service industry is 2 1/2 times more likely to be injured than managers and professionals.

Lumbar degenerative disk disease is a common cause of low back pain. This process is caused by everyday stress we put on our backs. Lifting, bending and twisting are perhaps the greatest stresses we put on our backs every day. Over time, there is dehydration of the disk and a loss of elastic properties. Over time this causes a loss in shock absorption. A person may lose an inch in height in his 60s when compared to his 20s. As a disk loses its height, the exiting nerve roots may become pinched and compressed.

Sciatica, or radiating pain, is usually pain or tingling sensation starting in the lower back and often times traveling past the knee.

The most common cause of radiating low back pain is a disk herniation. The lifetime risk of developing a disk herniation is 3 percent. A disk herniation can cause both a chemical inflammation and a mechanical compression on the nerve roots.

Another cause of low back pain is spinal stenosis, which is defined by a narrowing of the bony spinal canal. Possible causes include bone spurs, disk bulges/herniations, arthritic facet joints, and/or shifts of the vertebral bodies (spondylolisthesis). …

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Treatment for Low Back Pain Should Begin Early
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