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Dealing With Low Back Pain, The World’s No. 1 Health Problem

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In 2013, The Lancet published the results of the largest ever systematic effort that was carried out to describe just how and where in the world major diseases, injuries and health risk factors were most prevalent. This study, “The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010,” is divided into seven sections, each on a specific disease and the effects on the world population. It included heart disease, cancer, injuries and other conditions.

The analysis showed that although the human race has increased its life span expectancy by about 10 years since the 1970s, today men and women spend more years suffering injury, pain and illness than ever before. In other words, that additional decade of life expectancy created for us by modern science, technology and medicine has not produced a better quality of life –especially not during the final decade of life.

Longer Life Is No Cake Walk

The Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases published a review and analysis of the Global Burden data in an effort to estimate the total global burden of low back pain. What they found: Worldwide, out of the nearly 300 conditions studied, low back pain (LBP) is the leading cause of disability and ranks as sixth in terms of overall disability burden. The study conclusion: “LBP causes more global disability than any other condition. With the ageing (sic) population, there is an urgent need for further research to better understand LBP across different settings.”

The most serious health problem: Not famine. Not AIDS. Not heart disease… but low back pain.

Low Back Pain Is The Leading Culprit

The same research group that carried out this research published additional findings in the journal Arthritis Rheumatism where they set out to examine the details of LBP, including prevalence period, case definition and other variables.

They conducted a systematic review of the global prevalence of low back pain that included general population studies published between 1980 and 2009. A total of 165 studies from 54 countries were analyzed. Of these, 64 percent had been published since the last comparable review.

This additional review indicated that LBP is, indeed, a massive problem worldwide. Moreover, women between the ages of 40 and 80 years are most at risk. In other words, this demographic group suffered the greatest prevalence of injury and disability due to low back pain.

The Low Back Pain Puzzle

In these three pieces of research, it seems those conducting the studies were successful in uncovering a major problem, yet were unable to pinpoint a unifying cause, a global cause or a solution. They know that all over the world a remarkably large number of people suffer with low back pain and are disabled by it, but they cannot say why or suggest what to do.

The medical community is puzzled by this.

My Thoughts

There are many causes for low back pain. These include:

Soft tissue damage: Causes include twisting too hard, bending over for too long, lifting something overly heavy and sleeping in an odd position. These actions can cause micro tears to the tendons and ligaments or cause the muscles of the lower back to seize up, stiffen and either compress or bind nerves, reduce the flow of blood. They may also cause inflammation. Any of these can lead to disabling pain and discomfort.

Skeletal trauma: Causes include injury to the low back from such things as a hard fall, auto accident and other physically damaging actions. Can also be linked to infections, viruses and bacteria that result in spinal degeneration, deterioration of the spinal cord and erosion of the spinal discs. These can all lead to various kinds of pain and disability.

Psychological distress: Stress, anxiety, fear and a traumatic emotional event can all set in motion a nervous system response that restricts blood and oxygen flow and distribution in addition to causing inflammation and the release of bio-chemicals that adversely affect health.

Dietary issues: A diet low in natural calcium, magnesium, potassium and other essential nutrients can lead to poor development of the spine and other parts of the body. The brain controls the nervous system; the skeleton holds the body and allows for mobility and action via the joints; the muscles, ligaments and tendons move the limbs to do work. When the body is deficient in essential nutrients like glucose, potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, the B vitamins and so on, it will not be in optimal functioning shape. Malnutrition can lead to a weak body and weak low back that place you at increased risk for disabling low back pain from soft-tissue damage and skeletal trauma. Nutritional deficiencies also play a role in essential hormonal balances that can lead to depression, anxiety and other psychologically distressing states that, themselves, lead to low back pain.

Simple Solutions To A Huge Problem

Please excuse me if I attempt to oversimplify this massive global problem. But, in general, I have found that when a patient with a health problem describes his problem to a healthcare provider, he frames it in a way he believes is useful to the provider. He doesn’t describe the complete situation that has led to the problem.

For example, when a patient with low back pain describes the pain to a primary care physician, he discusses the physical pain and physical discomfort. Omitted are the psychological factors he might discuss with a psychotherapist, things like the fact that the pain starts after an argument with his spouse.

Patients are also reluctant to bring up subjects they think will reflect poorly on their character.

I believe that if people worldwide could understand that there are many causes of low back pain, and that each cause requires a different cure — sometimes anti-inflammatories, sometimes massage, sometimes psychological therapy, sometimes dietary changes — then each person could play a stronger role in preventing and treating this condition.

This takes some insight on the part of the individual.

When dealing with back pain, you to be mindful of your life’s circumstances and your activities, both physical and emotional. That allows you to focus on the moment when the pain starts and grasp more fully why it occurs.

From this small amount of personal insight and assessment, you on can then visit the appropriate health care professional or seek the proper advice on how to reverse and prevent the condition. Experiment to see which therapy helps relieve your pain. Use some trial and error. Low back pain is (in most cases) not disease-related. Therefore, it is within our grasp, as individuals, to prevent it and relieve the planet of this epidemic.

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