Back Pain is an Epidemic

According to the National Library of Medicine, 80% of people will experience back pain at least once during their lifetime. And for far too many sufferers, that pain is chronic. If you've ever suffered back pain then you know how miserable it is. Our backs are connected to everything! And too often it feels like we can't move. Back ha a way of draining us of motivation to do much of anything.


The Many Causes of Back Pain

Back pain typically becomes a problem for people between 30 and 50 years old, and it tends to worsen with age. Several other factors can contribute to its occurrence and intensity:

  • Personal fitness is a huge factor in pain levels. The less a person moves, the more likely they are to suffer from chronic back pain.
  • Genes can make some people more susceptible to conditions such as arthritis that can contribute to back pain.
  • Mental health, often overlooked in this area, can have a direct impact on pain. That may be why certain antidepressants can be so effective in some cases. Chronic anxiety can also manifest as muscle tension, which can cause painful tightness in the shoulders and back.
  • Smoking reduces blood flow, which can contribute to painful degenerative conditions.
  • Excess weight can put added strain on the lower back, causing pain.

Congenital issues, injuries, tumors, endometriosis, kidney stones, pregnancy and fibromyalgia are also common contributors to back pain.


The American Back Pain Epidemic

A recent analysis determined that Americans spent $3.1 trillion to treat back pain in 2016, up from $1.4 trillion in 1996. That’s a lot of money going to treating back pain. One half of adult Americans say they experience back pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, back pain is the third most common reason for a visit to the doctor. There are a lot of complex issues at play of course. Many people have conditions that exacerbate the problems, ad some have had an injury, and some have other problems coming into play. But for those outside of these complex issues, there is one factor that seems to be a problem for many of us, and it's fixable.


Back Pain and Fitness

Well, as we said, there are a number of contributing factors. But honestly, the number one factor at play for millions of Americans in pain is probably this: Americans are increasingly sedentary, and it’s directly contributing to our pain levels. How many of us spend our workdays sitting behind a desk, spend even more time sitting in a car for the daily commute, and then go home and do some more sitting on the sofa in front of the TV? This might be the norm for many Americans, but it’s far from normal for our bodies, and it’s downright murder on our muscles, tendons, nerves and spines.


Preventing Back Pain

The best way to get a handle on chronic back pain is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. This isn’t an option for everyone, and people already suffering should consult a doctor about starting any new regimens, but simply getting more active may save some people from a lifetime of back pain and it may go a long way toward alleviating many existing problems. 

Try alternating between stretches and exercises that strengthen the body’s core and take short breaks throughout the day to move around and get that circulation flowing. It may help to use a timer that goes off every twenty minutes to remind you to stand and stretch.


Additional Ways to Combat Back Pain

Consider swimming or other low impact options—but make sure you work your way up rather than just jumping in which increases the likelihood of injury. If weight may be playing a role, consider a diet overhaul to shed some pounds at the same time. If these ideas feel impossible, it may also be important to see if analgesics or pain relief might help you then move toward fitness as a goal. And it might be time to have someone look at your posture. The way we sit influences the ways that sitting impacts or health.

There's help if you seek it. No one should suffer and a doctor can help by connecting you to pain relief, tests, and even physical therapy. It's important to make certain there are no other factors at play first though so x-rays or other scans and tests may be in order. There are things that in our control, such as choosing a more active lifestyle, and eating a healthy diet to keep weight within the normal range (we at Wellness acknowledge that being heavy is not inherently unhealthy and that some people may not be able to lose weight) and there are things that are not, such as genetics. But even just attaining moderate fitness connects to every part of our health and it really needs to be a goal for anyone who is able to pursue it, no matter what size you are.

Be sure to consult a doctor before beginning any kind of new routine—and this goes double for those with existing issues, including but not limited to back pain. Americans are overwhelmed with back issues, so if you're in this position, you're not alone. But it's not hopeless, though it is challenging, that's for sure.

Copyright 2020, Wellness.com

8/6/2020 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
Wellness Exists to Empower Health Conscious Consumers. Wellness.com helps people live healthier, happier and more successful lives by connecting them with the best health, wellness and lifestyle information and resources on the web.
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