06.08.18 | Chiropractic, Pain Conditions

Back Pain Statistics and Interesting Facts

back pain

If you’ve never experienced it before, it might be difficult to comprehend that most people will have back pain at some point in their lives. This pain could come from a plethora of factors, and there is no way to tell when it may creep into your life. Check out a few interesting back pain facts to put things in perspective:

  • Professionals state that at least 80% of the world’s population will experience back pain
  • Of all working Americans, half report having some pain in the back at least once a year
  • Back pain is the second leading reason why people visit the doctor
  • A problem back in the number one reason why people miss work
  • Somewhere around $50 billion each year is spent on the treatment of back pain

Once it’s there, the only thing you want to do is get rid of it as soon as possible. Before worrying about treatment or visiting your local chiropractor in Anchorage, take a look at some back pain facts and statistics surrounding the medical issue that is felt by so many.

Back Pain Statistics Infographic

What Causes Back Pain?

The human back is one complex feature of the body. There are a variety of muscles, ligaments, joints, and bones that all must work together to allow regular movements. With all the various body parts in the back come the possibility of strains, sprains, irritation, and ruptured discs.

Any of these occurrences are going to cause you to feel pain in your back. Other health factors can have an impact on pain in your back as well including:

  • Poor posture
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Arthritis
  • Kidney stones
  • Blood clots
  • Kidney infection
  • Bone loss

About 10% of the people that visit the doctor do not get a definitive answer as to why they are suffering from back pain. There are so many different factors that can contribute to the pain including the amount of physical activity, type of work, or even a slip that could have set things out of alignment. It can be difficult for doctors to make a determination.

The Different Types of Back Pain Anyone Can Suffer From

When thinking about pain in the back, you probably just think the of the back as one area of the body. In truth, there are several different sections of the back, and they hold their own set of problems when it comes to being injured.

Lower Back Pain

People most often deal with pain in the lower part of the back versus any other area. It’s made up of a combination of joints, ligaments, nerves, bones that interconnect, and muscles. The purpose is for them all to work together to provide support, flexibility, and strength to the body. Even though it is extremely well engineered and sophisticated, it also can be very susceptible to pain and injuries.

If you are wondering about problems in the lower back, you should be aware of some of the symptoms surrounding it. Those may include one or more of the following:

  • Problems with standing, walking, or going from sitting to standing or vice versa
  • A dull pain that increases with an extended period of time sitting or standing
  • Spasms in the lower back that tighten around the pelvis and hips
  • Numbness, tingling, stinging, or a burning pain that can be anywhere in the lower back, thighs, legs, or feet
  • Dull pain in the lower back

Mechanical pain is most common, and it’s caused by a problem in the joints, muscles, or ligaments. It is usually found in the lower back, tops of the legs, or buttocks. Several loading motions can cause mechanical pain:

  • Forward, backward, or twisting movements
  • Standing
  • Sitting
  • Resting

Radicular pain is another type of lower back pain. It happens when the spinal nerve root is inflamed or impinged in some way. This is a sharp, burning, electric kind of pain that can also result in weakness or numbness. You will only feel radicular pain on one side of the body.

Upper Back Pain

While lower back pain is more common for most individuals, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a vast number of people out there suffering from upper back pain as well. Before understanding why problems happen in the area of the upper back know that:

  • The upper and mid back is made up of the thoracic spine. It’s the part of the spine that is the most stable.
  • Protection of the heart and lungs is the main job of the thoracic spine.
  • There are 12 vertebrae in the thoracic spine. That is more than in any other part of the spine.
  • From your shoulders to the waist is where the thoracic spine is found.

The essential thoracic spine is also susceptible to a variety of problems just like any other part of the body that can cause pain or problems. Some interesting facts surrounding that matter include:

  • Muscles or soft tissue in the upper back are often the reason for discomfort in that area.
  • A herniated disc in the thoracic spine is a rare occurrence.
  • Things that are heavy being carried on the back can cause upper back pain.
  • Neck pain can be a result of a problem in the upper back. The tendons and muscles are all connected throughout that entire region.

Back Pain Based on Age Group and the Statistics

Experts are reporting back pain statistics that show that the amount of people suffering from the uncomfortable condition is growing. In 1997, 28.1% of Americans reported some sort of problem with their back. By 2013, that number had increased to 29%.

The number of people reporting problems are the highest among people over the age of 65. Those percentages are more noticeable in difference in the age group over 65. In 1997, 29.5% were complaining of pain. In 2013, that amount of complaints raised to 33.7%

The Gender Differences and the Relation to Back Pain

Back facts prove that there are more problems for women than men when it comes to complaints of pain. Household interviews were performed by the CDC which discovered that about one-third of women had some lower back pain issue while only around a quarter of men had the same complaint.

When it comes to going in to work, however, men say that the back pain that they are dealing with is going to keep them home more often than women. That could be for a variety of reasons including the severity of the pain or the type of work they are required to do. 30% of men said that they couldn’t complete their normal job duties as a result of their pain while only 20% stated they wouldn’t be able to work normally.

Back Pain Problems that Arise With Pregnancy

Pregnant women have a lot to deal with already trying to grow a baby inside of their bodies. However, there are about 50% that report added back pain as something that occurs to them during the course of their pregnancy.

The case of a woman with child is a bit different because she cannot get the same kinds of medications and treatments as someone who wasn’t carrying a baby could. There are risks involved with medications and other back pain treatments that are too risky for the baby. She does have a few options though, and those are:

  • Exercise
  • Chiropractic care
  • Pillows and lots of support while sitting or sleeping
  • Heat and ice applications
  • Massages
  • Tylenol

The recovery time for a pregnant individual can vary depending on the treatment used and the severity of the case. In some instances, the pain will be relieved right away. Other times the pain remains present until months after delivery.

Sports-Related Back Pain and the Statistics

Somewhat like work-related injuries, sports are a top reason for taking athletes out of the game. Some kinds of sports are more likely to cause damage than others, and going in order based off of a recent study, here there are in rank from most likely to result in back injury or pain to least likely:

  1. Gymnastics – 85%
  2. Weightlifting – 80%
  3. Wrestling – 69%
  4. Soccer – 58%
  5. Tennis – 50%
  6. Golf – 30%

Perhaps the biggest reason for the lower back pain to occur is that the athletes are overtraining or performing their routines without following proper protocol. As long as those actions are avoided, the chance of obtaining some sort of injury is going to decrease greatly.

Ways To Save Your Back While Taking Part in Sports Activities

Instead of just giving up on the sport you love, there are practices that can be put in place to avoid the problem from happening in the first place. Prevention is always the best way to avoid having to deal with sore, aching muscles or other damages to your body.

  • Always do an adequate warm-up before starting
  • Stretching and core training of all the major muscle groups should be included in any routine
  • Flexibility and balance of the muscles should be a focus
  • Never go up in intensity and more than 10% in a week
  • Don’t overtrain over overuse your body
  • Give yourself time to recover

The Impact on Daily Activities From Back Pain

From all of the people that have been surveyed and complained of back pain in the past, one in three says that the discomfort is enough to affect their everyday activities. In one study done by APTA Move Forward, these were the findings:

  • 39% of the people said they could not fully participate in daily activities due to back pain
  • 38% noted that the pain was inhibiting exercise abilities
  • 37% stated the back pain was keeping them from sleeping

More than half of the people that were interviewed commented that with their severe pain, they had poor sleep quality.

There have been studies done to prove that back pain has a direct connection to the depression level in a person as well. The more intense or frequent the back pain, the more often they felt feelings of being depressed.

Family and Friends Stepping in to Help

The person suffering from the back pain problem isn’t the only one who has their daily life affected by the issue. Family and friends are taking time out of their daily routines in order to lend a hand to someone that can’t perform their own daily activities. Some of the statistics surrounding this are a little bit hard to believe when thinking about what is being given up because of this chronic problem.

  • 16% of people that have a family member with pain have changed their lives in a major way
  • 35% claim that they have had to make minor adjustments
  • 3 out of 5 family members have helped with chores around the house
  • 30% have missed work to lend a hand
  • Social invitations have been declined by 28% of people that stayed back when they were needed
  • 18% of people have helped with some of the daily life activities including:
    • Eating
    • Dressing
    • Bathing
  • 17% have had to take an extended leave from work
  • 13% stopped taking part in certain hobbies or pastimes
  • 8% have moved themselves to be closer to their debilitated family member
  • 6% have had to change jobs

For the non-pain suffers, the back pain statistics show that four out of ten have done at least one or more of what’s listed above at some point in regards to daily living activities.

Working with Back Pain

In the past, many of the people that would complain of back issues would be those that were performing difficult physical labor type of jobs. That is no longer the case. Today, 54% of the people with the problems are those that sit at office desk positions.

What are Some of the Treatments for Back Pain?

Before going into the details of treatment for back pain, first take a look at some of these facts:

  • Out of all the people that go to the doctor, back pain problems is one-fifth of the reason why.
  • 2-5% of all doctor’s appointments are made to get relief from some sort of back issue
  • Low back pain is experienced by up to 37% of Americans that don’t seek treatment.

When those that are suffering decide that they do need to visit someone for professional help, they will generally go to chiropractors, primary care physicians, or subspecialists.

  • 8 out of 10 people go to a primary care doctor or chiropractor
  • 2 out of 10 go to a subspecialist

Whenever a patient visits a doctor or chiropractor to get help with back pain, a knowledgeable professional is going to recommend the most conservative course of action first. There is an assortment of options for back pain treatment to choose from including:

  • Chiropractic care
  • OTC and prescription pain relief
  • Electrical nerve stimulation
  • Electrothermal therapy
  • Nerve blocks
  • Spinal stimulation
  • Physical therapy
  • Injections
  • Spinal decompression therapy
  • Surgery

Chiropractic Care is Sought After by Many Patients

After acquiring a back injury, a chiropractor is one of the most conservative methods to try out first. There are over 70,000 licensed in the United States today. It’s estimated that around 27 million people get treatment for various conditions and injuries from these types of professional health caregivers.

There is a high success rate with back pain treatment from chiropractors. In one study it was discovered that about 94% of people that got treatment from a chiropractor saw a reduced level of pain after four weeks. Only 56% that went and saw a medical doctor for prescription medication saw that same amount of relief.

Medication is Frequently Prescribed for a Way to Alleviate Pain

The most straightforward way to treat patients that are complaining of pain is with a painkiller. That could be one that is purchased over the counter or one that a physician has to order.

There are debates on the effectiveness of the medication. One survey found that only 17% of the people that took pills for pain were more likely to say they thought that their prescription was somewhat or fairly working to relieve pain.

With the large pain pill epidemic that much of the nation has been facing over the past few years, physicians are thinking twice about even giving out painkillers to their patients.

Physical Therapy Gets Mixed Reviews as a Back Pain Treatment

When people are struggling with dealing with problems with their back, they are going to do whatever possible to get rid of it. Many times that means going to see a physical therapist to see what kind of options they offer.

There are a variety of exercises that can be done both in the office and at home. 48% of the people that have gone to physical therapy have reported back that it helped them in their relief.

Primary Care Doctors Treatments for Back Pain

When going to see a primary care doctor, they are going to start with the least invasive method of treatment and then go from there. That is how they will discover exactly what is going to be necessary to get the job done.

They will generally consult with the patient and then work through a series of options in order to find which one is going to be needed to get their client feeling normal again. Briefly described, it will go something like this:

  1. Recommendations for prevention including wearing more comfortable footwear, improving posture, getting a better mattress
  2. Physical therapy along with stretching and exercising at home
  3. Medications for pain
  4. Electrotherapy, injections, and other non-invasive procedures
  5. Surgery

Surgery is the Last Resort for Relieving Chronic or Serious Back Problems

Going into surgery for back pain treatment is the most serious of all options. Back pain statistics show that it’s only about 5% of people in America that are actually required to have surgery in order to fix their problem. There are a few different kinds of surgeries that can be completed including:

  • Spinal fusions – joining the surrounding vertebrae
  • Discectomies – removing the part of the herniated disc
  • Laminectomies – removing part of the bone that’s over the spinal column

The surgery that the doctor chooses to perform is going to be dependent on the type of injury or issue that is causing the pain.

Injections are Limited at Providing Efficacy

For more than 50 years, doctors have been using corticosteroid injections in the back for pain relief. The only issue is that the series of shots that are generally needed to complete the treatment does not necessarily make the problem go away completely.

Even with those reports being made, there has been a rise in the number of people that go to get them. Along with the increase in use has been an increase in the cost of injections costing $600 a piece. That labeled with the fact you often need more than one makes it quite an expense. Luckily for most patients, their insurance will cover the fees.

Using Manipulation as a Treatment for Back Pain

In the past, manipulation as a back pain treatment didn’t get a whole lot of attention. Chiropractors were the professionals that focused on it as a way to help their patients dealing with pain in their backs. Today, it seems to be reaching a more favored status because of the price and how well it works.

The pain treatment is both safe and effective when performed by a qualified chiropractor. It puts physical therapy into drive, reduces the amount of medication necessary, and most importantly, reduces back pain. There are no passive forms of treatment like bed rest following manipulation.

Preventing Back Pain from Occurring

One of the most effective ways of treating any sort of health issue or condition is prevention. If there is any way that you can keep it from occurring in the first place, you’re going to be a lot further off down the road. There are a variety of things that can be done to keep yourself from ever getting back pain in the first place. Not saying that it won’t still happen, but keep these tips and tricks in mind when you are trying to protect your back.

  • Visit a doctor or chiropractor regularly to ensure your back is ergonomically sound
  • Don’t smoke as it causes impairment in blood flow which could deprive your spinal tissues of oxygen and nutrients.
  • Wear low-heeled shoes that are comfortable
  • Get a good mattress to sleep on
  • Keep objects close to your body and use your knees when lifting
  • Keep a proper posture
  • Stretch before any exercising or other physical activity
  • Don’t stay inactive for too long
  • Discuss with your doctor an appropriate amount of daily physical activity
  • Stay healthy with a proper diet and maintain your weight

What is the Cost of Treatment of Back Pain?

Even though the percentage of individuals that go to the doctor for back pain is relatively low at 2-5%, it still accounts for over $86 billion in healthcare expenses every single year.

One of the biggest considerations when thinking about going to get back pain treatment is how much it is going to cost. Going to the doctor can be extremely expensive, especially if you don’t have health insurance. It is also going to make a difference in price based on what kind of treatment you get.

Surgery is the most expensive treatment option with a spinal fusion costing somewhere around $75,000 just for the procedure. That doesn’t count the other costs that come along with it including:

  • Pre and follow-up doctor appointments
  • Medications
  • Therapy
  • Missed work

Chiropractic care is generally around $30 to $200 per session. That again is depending on the type of treatment you get and where you live in the country. On average, it’s estimated that the average cost of one session is about $65.

Lost Wages Because of Dealing with Chronic Back Issues

Reports have indicated that the most common reason for a person to suffer a job-related disability is due to a back injury. So, on top of the cost to pay for the various medical treatments for the problem, people and society are missing out on making the income that they would otherwise.

Compensable back injury rates are at half a million workers each year. With compensation for the back limited to just 2% of employees in their specific industries, it doesn’t prevent one-fifth of all workers’ compensation claims in the country from being related to pain in the back.

Over $100 billion a year is spent by Americans either directly or indirectly because of pain suffering. Some of those expenses include:

  • Doctor visits
  • Medication
  • Surgeries
  • Loss of work
  • Legal costs
  • Insurance overheads

What to Walk Away With

If you’ve visited this in order to learn more about back pain statistics, there is a good chance you or someone you know is suffering. Know that you are not alone and there are plenty of other people dealing with the same issue.

There are ways to cope with chronic pain and to even treat it to the point that you no longer have to live your day to day life in constant discomfort. Before throwing in the towel, make sure you review all of the treatment options that are out there. Surely there is one that can be performed that’s going to at least provide some relief.

 

Additional References:

  1. Jensen M, Brant-Zawadzki M, Obuchowski N, et al. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People Without Back Pain. N Engl J Med 1994; 331: 69-116.
  2. Vallfors B. Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Clinical Symptoms, Absenteeism and Working Environment. Scan J Rehab Med Suppl 1985; 11: 1-98.
  3. This total represents only the more readily identifiable costs for medical care, workers compensation payments and time lost from work. It does not include costs associated with lost personal income due to acquired physical limitation resulting from a back problem and lost employer productivity due to employee medical absence. In Project Briefs: Back Pain Patient Outcomes Assessment Team (BOAT). In MEDTEP Update, Vol. 1 Issue 1, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Rockville,
  4. Time to recognize value of chiropractic care? Science and patient satisfaction surveys cite usefulness of spinal manipulation. Orthopedics Today 2003 Feb; 23(2):14-15.
  5. Bigos S, Bowyer O, Braen G, et al. Acute Low Back Problems in Adults. Clinical Practice Guideline No.14. AHCPR Publication No. 95-0642. Rockville, MD: Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, December, 1994.

Author: Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.

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