Facts about Back Pain
Low back pain is an exceedingly common yet perplexing problem. Over the course of our lifetime, there is a 90% chance that we will suffer at least one bout of low back pain. Back pain represents the second most common cause of a visit to the doctor after colds and flu. The acute category of back pain, lasting 4 to 6 weeks, is the leading cause of disability under the age of 45 and responsible for billions of dollars spent in diagnosis and treatment.
Fortunately, say Dr. Stephen Reed and Penny Kendall-Reed, authors of The Complete Doctor’s Healthy Back Bible, only a small percentage of people who develop low back pain will have symptoms for longer than 2 weeks. Most back pain is harmless and self-limiting, a short but annoying hindrance to daily life that resolves as rapidly as it appears. Because back pain often comes and often goes, we have trouble determining if it is serious enough to warrant medical attention. If we just wait another day, the pain might go away, we reason.
However, for the novice sufferer, for the person with recurring bouts of pain, and for the small percentage of people with chronic pain, recovery statistics offer little reassurance. These people need to understand their pain and its cause, know when their symptoms indicate a serious problem that needs medical attention, and begin to plan their recovery. In the presence of ‘Red Flag’ indicators of potentially serious causes of back pain, emergency medical care, invasive surgery, or longer-term care may be needed.
✔ B A C K F A C T S
No doubt about it, back pain is painful! The single most important treatment of back pain is reliable information.
• 90% of us will experience an episode of low back pain at least once during our lives.
• 90% of acute low back pain will resolve within 4 to 6 weeks.
• 90% of low back pain cases will have no specific cause, such as disc herniation or arthritis. In most cases of low back pain, no specific injury or event is identified as a cause.
• Less than 1% of acute low back pain is due to a serious spinal condition, such as infection or cancer. The figure is even lower below age 50.
• Less than 2% of back pain patients end up needing surgery.
• Bed rest slows your recovery; staying active speeds up your recovery.