Tuesday, August 08, 2017

About that aching lower back of yours

Kids, don't try this at home.
First, you are not alone.
Lower back pain is one of the top reasons people go to the doctor in the US, and it affects 29 percent of adult Americans, according to surveys. It’s also the leading reason for missing work anywhere in the world. The US spends approximately $90 billion a year on back pain— more than the annual expenditures on high blood pressure, pregnancy and postpartum care, and depression — and that doesn’t include the estimated $10 to $20 billion in lost productivity related to back pain.
I don't know why it's 29 percent instead of, say, 30 percent. Maybe they forgot to count you.

Second, here's what you don't want to do.
Millions of back patients are floundering in a medical system that isn’t equipped to help them. They’re pushed toward intrusive, addictive, expensive interventions that often fail or can even harm them, and away from things like yoga or psychotherapy, which actually seem to help. Meanwhile, Americans and their doctors have come to expect cures for everything — and back pain is one of those nearly universal ailments with no cure. Patients and taxpayers wind up paying the price for this failure, both in dollars and in health.
Chronic nonspecific back pain is the kind the medical community is often terrible at treating. Many of the most popular treatments on offer from doctors for chronic nonspecific low back pain — bed rest, spinal surgery, opioid painkillers, steroid injections — have been proven ineffective in the majority of cases, and sometimes downright harmful. 
Consider opioids. In 2017, more than 30,000 Americans will die from opioid overdoses. Opioid prescribing is common among people with back pain, with almost 20 percent receiving long-term opioid prescriptions.
So wince and just say no.

Here's what you do want to do.
Moving is probably the most important thing you can do for back pain. When back pain strikes, your first instinct may be to avoid physical activity and retreat to the couch until the pain subsides. But doctors now think that in most cases, this is probably the worst thing you can do. 
Studies comparing exercise to no exercise for chronic low back pain are consistently clear: Physical activity can help relieve pain, while being inactive can delay a person’s recovery. 
Exercise is helpful for a number of reasons: It can increase muscle strength, which can help support the spine; It can improve flexibility and range of motion in the back, which can help people’s functional movement and get them back to their normal living; it can boost blood flow to the soft tissues in the back, which promotes healing and reduces stiffness.
Researchers suggested that a combination of exercises — strength training, aerobic exercise, flexibility training — may be most helpful to patients, and that there seemed to be no clear winners among the different approaches but that each had its own benefits.
So get and there and get moving.

 (Thanks, Liz)

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