Back pain is one of the most widespread health conditions in the U.S., with almost 80 percent of Americans experiencing at least one episode of lower back pain at some point in their lives. Furthermore, this condition is becoming more common in the U.S. A study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that lower back pain only afflicted 3.9 percent of the U.S. population 1992, but had grown to 10.2 percent in 2006.
This is troubling for many reasons but primarily because chronic back pain is the second leading cause of disability in the nation. It is also one of the top reasons for missed work, contributing to almost $100 billion in lost productivity to the nation annually. This health issue also costs the country almost $33 billion each year in treatment costs.
Although there are many reasons why this condition is becoming more common, most are related to the prevalence of some key risk factors that elevate the likelihood that lower back pain will strike:
- Obesity—the spine is the primary weight support structure, so when there is excess weight, this adds more strain. As weight is increased, this applies pressure to the spine, deforming it and contributing to lumbar pain. Many researchers feel that there is a strong correlation between the obesity epidemic and the rise in lower back pain cases.
- Sedentary lifestyle—this factor is closely linked to obesity but is distinct. For many people who sit at a desk for long periods of time, they are putting enormous pressure on the spine and back muscles. This unnatural position weakens some back muscles, making them more prone to injury. The additional strain on your spine also increases the likelihood of a herniated spinal disc. Finally, sitting for long periods applies undue pressure to spinal nerves, possibly leading to a pinched nerve.
- Aging—another socioeconomic factor in the rise of back pain cases is our aging population. Middle aged and the elderly are more susceptible to chronic back issues, so as the population greys and lives longer, it is only natural that there would be more instances of chronic back pain. Furthermore, seniors are more likely to develop osteoarthritis which can inflame the joints in the spine.
- Genetic predisposition—recent research suggests that some forms of chronic back pain may be hereditary. One study found that those with family member with disc-related back pain was four times more likely to develop similar health problems.
- Occupational hazards—many jobs that involve long periods of standing, sitting, or bending and lifting raise the risk of a back injury. If you work in one of these occupations, take special care to protect your back by regularly stretching and strengthening your back, adopt an optimal posture, lift objects with minimal back contortion, and eat a nutritious diet.
- Smoking—nicotine and other chemicals inhaled during smoking may inhibit the uptake and delivery of oxygen to the body. This oxygen deprivation is especially dangerous for spinal discs which require an optimal environment to remain healthy and heal after an injury.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.