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CHRONIC LOW BACK PAIN AND SOCIOECONOMIC INFLUENCE

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Tid Bits of Info

  • Low back pain affects > 80% of the population.
  • Greater than 50 billion dollars per year is spent on low back pain.
  • Chronic low back pain affects women more than men ages 50 – 69 years old.
  • The majority chronic low back sufferers rely on state and federal insurance programs.
  • Seek advice and treatment from a Physical Therapist if you suffer low back pain.

85-90% of all people will suffer from low back pain at some time in their life. For most people, this will be a temporary problem, but some people will suffer chronic low back pain in their lumbar spine region. While this chronic pain could affect anyone, studies indicate a correlation between socioeconomic status and instances of this condition. Physical Therapists can help patients from all background reduce pain through treatment and specific exercises to increase strength and improve posture.

The lumbar spine consists of 5 vertebra that are located at the base of the spine.   These lumbar vertebra join the thoracic vertebra and most chronic low back pain occurs at the distal end of the lumbar spine.  The area is furthest from the head and neck and the L4, L5 and S1 vertebra absorb all of the ground forces that are present and placed upon the human skeleton. There is a significant need for the joints of the lumbar spine to have the dynamic support of the muscles that surround that part of the spine.  In the absence of muscular support the joints and everything that holds those joints together is subjected to a tremendous amount of sheer and compressive force. These forces will eventually take their toll on the human spine and cause it to break down. This break down can lead to a host of orthopaedic problems and lead chronic low back pain.

Chronic low back pain has been linked to several socioeconomic and behavioral factors.  Some of the basic findings of several studies revealed that the average age of someone suffering from chronic low back pain is between 50 – 69 years old.  Women experience the symptoms of chronic low back pain in greater frequency than men of the same age. The lack of education at all levels appears to be common among the people that suffer from this condition.

31909898 - side view of worker with backache while lifting box in the warehouse

Why might this lead to chronic back pain? Lower education levels may limit job options and lead to jobs that involve physical labor that can strain the system. At the same time, people suffering from chronic low back pain are also more likely to be unemployed, earn $20,000 per year or less, and receive a larger percentage of their income from disability compared to the non-sufferer.  Many of the people suffering from chronic low back pain are not covered by private health insurance, instead they rely on federal and state run health insurance programs to pay for their care.

Chronic low back pain costs society billions of dollars per year in healthcare costs and loss of production from the injured worker.  One major push must come from the healthcare providers that are treating these patients.  They must get these patients more active.  These people must be asked to exercise, watch their body weight, eat well, stop smoking and drink responsibly.   If these people are able to live a “clean” life style and exercise more frequently, they have a good chance of reducing the intensity of the symptoms associated with chronic low back pain.

People with chronic low back pain should seek help from Physical Therapists that specialize in the treatment of orthopaedic injuries.   Physical Therapists are licensed healthcare professionals that can educate the patient on proper posture, exercises, lifting techniques and basic ergonomics.  The patient can be symptomatically treated initially, but as soon as medically possible they need to begin a cardiovascular exercise regimen and a stretching and strengthening program.  The primary focus of the strengthening program must be a concentration of core related exercises.  The patient can expect to experience an “up-tick” in their pain level that is associated with exercises that cause mild muscle damage.  This damage is a natural occurrence and will repair itself within a few days.  The end result of the micro damage to the muscle is a stronger   muscle.  Proper training techniques will enable the patient to build muscular endurance which is needed in the lumbar spine paraspinal musculature.  These muscles must dynamically stabilize the spine throughout the entire day.  They must be trained like marathon runners and not sprinters.

Seeking the advice and treatment of a Physical Therapist is easy and does not require a visit to your doctor.  You should check with your insurance company to see if they require a referral.  A referral and a doctor’s prescription for Physical Therapy services are two different things.

Chronic low back pain can be associated with certain behaviors and socioeconomic conditions that seem to pre-dispose them to the symptoms.  Fortunately, the treatment for chronic low back pain can occur at any time and can be successful for all people regardless of the background.