On a recent ski trip, my best friend handed me a flask of cinnamon schnapps. He called it “courage in 100-proof form,” and I needed it. I was perched at the edge of a cliff, looking at a 20-foot drop into thigh-deep powder.
Nearly a decade ago, when I was laid up in an emergency room with two bulging disks in my lower lumbar spine, there’s no way I could have imagined myself attempting such foolish feats of middle-aged manliness.
I’m hardly alone in my lower lumbar woes. A 2009 study in Archives of Internal Medicine found that the prevalence of chronic, impairing low-back pain rose from 3.9% of adults in 1992 to 10.2% in 2006. And a 2006 study from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases says that lower-back pain is the No. 2 reason why Americans see a doctor, second only to the common cold.
Most people have experienced back pain – and many hope that massage will relieve it. But not all forms of massage have been scientifically proven to help against low back pain. That is what the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) pointed out in information published on informedhealthonline.org today.
Back pain often affects the lower back and can be a big physical and psychological burden. “The cause of back pain is not always immediately clear,” explains Professor Peter Sawicki, the Institute’s Director. “But low back pain usually gets better on its own within a few weeks.” Back pain is only rarely caused by a more serious health problem.
Classic massage, Thai massage and acupressure could help against low back pain
If low back pain does not get better on its own, massage therapy could be a worthwhile option.
Years of competitive sports may raise teenagers’ risk of developing lower back pain, a new study finds.
The study, of nearly 4,700 18-year-old college students, found that those who had been involved in sports since elementary school had higher rates of low back pain than their less-competitive peers.
Overall, 72 percent reported ever having had a bout of back pain, compared with 62 percent of those who had spent fewer years playing sports, and half of students who had never been involved in competitive sports.
Animal research is suggesting new ways to aid recovery after spinal cord injury. New studies demonstrate that diet affects recovery rate and show how to make stem cell therapies safer for spinal injury patients. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2009, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news on brain science and health.
In other animal studies, researchers identified molecules that encourage spinal cord regeneration and ways to block molecules that discourage it. The findings may help shape therapies for the more than one million people in North America who have spinal cord injuries.
Research released today shows that:
A new study suggests that the increasing availability of MRI scanners may be feeding an increase in surgery for lower back pain—despite doubts about the effectiveness of surgery for most people.
Looking at MRI availability in 318 U.S. metropolitan areas, researchers found that Medicare patients with low back pain were more likely to get a scan when they lived in an area with more MRI machines.
Greater MRI availability was also linked to higher odds of getting lower back surgery, the investigators report in the journal Health Affairs.
Your lower back pain may be killing you, but there’s some good news: Such pain is very unlikely to mean serious problems such as broken vertebrae or cancer, according to a study by Australian researchers.
Dr. Christopher G. Maher, from The George Institute of International Health in Sydney, and colleagues studied 1172 patients who came to general practitioners, physical therapists, or chiropractors with a new complaint of lower back pain.
The patients were monitored for 12 months to look for broken bones, infection, arthritis, or cancer was the cause.
Newport Beach resident Dorys Balboa spent 11 years in pain after being involved in a car crash that injured her low back. Medication, pain management techniques and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, offered only limited respites, but decompression surgery performed by a neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center brought immediate, complete relief.
“I came out of the recovery room and I remember I could move my feet again, and I couldn’t do that for a long time. My right toe had been numb and I’d had excruciating pain all the way up my leg. I couldn’t flex my foot forward and backward,” said Balboa, 41.
“When I got out of surgery, I was moving my foot and thinking, ‘I’m probably not feeling the pain because I’m still medicated.’ So I was trying to reason with myself not to get too excited. But I was thinking, ‘I can feel a little pressure on my back, and if I can feel that, I should be able to feel the pain in my foot.’ And then it just dawned on me: ‘Oh, my gosh, I am OK.’”
Back pain, a hallmark of degenerative disc disease, sends millions of people to their doctor. In fact, more than 80 percent of patients who undergo spine surgery do so because of disc degeneration. And part of the answer may be as close as a patient’s medicine cabinet.
In their quest to discover ways to stop or reverse degenerative disc disease, orthopaedic researchers have been removing disc tissue from patients who are having spine surgery and extracting cells from that tissue for cultivation in vitro (a controlled environment outside of a living organism). They then transfer the cells back into the patient. Shu-Hua Yang, MD, PhD, is part of a Taiwanese research team that has discovered that Lovastatin, a cholesterol-lowering medication, helps the differentiation of disc cells in vitro.
Dr. Yang, who is chief of the department of orthopedics at National Taiwan University Hospital, Yun-Lin-Branch, is presenting the group’s findings in the poster “Lovastatin Helps Re-Differentiation of Human Nucleus Pulposus Cells During Monolayer Expansion” during the 55th Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society, Feb. 22–25, 2009, in Las Vegas. Dr. Yang is also presenting the results of a related study, “Influences of Age-Related Degeneration on Regenerative Potential of Human Nucleus Pulposus Cells,” at the same meeting. The two studies reveal the findings of a team of researchers from National Taiwan University Hospital.
The total cost of treating back pain in the United States has risen 65 percent in the past decade, but after all the pricey treatments, many people are still left with an aching back and an increasingly empty wallet, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.
They said treating spine problems in the United States costs $85.9 billion a year, rivaling the economic burden of treating cancer, which costs $89 billion.
Higher spending on prescription drugs, more advanced diagnostic tests and more frequent outpatient visits helped drive the increases, as well as greater patient demand for treatment and more use of spinal fusion surgery and instruments, they said.
Antidepressants might be worthless for treating low back pain, suggests a new review that found no evidence to support using the drugs in this way. Yet, up to 23 percent of U.S. physicians report prescribing antidepressants to patients with low back pain.
“The prescription of antidepressants as a treatment for back pain remains controversial,” Donna Urquhart, Ph.D., research fellow at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and lead review author.
The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.
Surgery works for people with a slipped or misaligned disk, but often is not necessary if patients can muster enough patience, according to two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Back problems are a difficult challenge for doctors in part because it is difficult to know when to operate.
Chronic back pain is a condition that affects a significant part of the population, with patients falling into three major groups; those with herniated discs, spinal stenosis (a nerve affecting narrowing of the spinal cord), and complications from failed back surgery. Radiofrequency thermolesioning is a widespread treatment for chronic back pain, but because of its neurodestructive nature, it is often considered an unsuitable treatment.
A rise in the number of obese patients on wards could be causing thousands of NHS nurses to seek treatment for back pain, according to experts.
About 5,000 nurses are currently being treated for back pain following a surge in patients’ weights and the number of patients a nurse has to care for, according to the British Chiropractic Association.
Two-year-old Ariana Martin had a rough start to life.
A fraternal twin, she was born without four ribs on her left side, and with several health problems, including severe scoliosis. With an under-developed chest cavity, Ariana faced severe lung disease and difficulty breathing.
Narcotic drugs (opioids) are commonly prescribed for short-term relief of chronic back pain, but their effectiveness long-term has been questioned in a review article by researchers at Yale School of Medicine, who also found that behaviors consistent with opioid abuse was reported in 24 percent of cases.
“Patients with chronic back pain commonly request pain medication, and opioid medications are used despite the concerns clinicians have with patients developing an addiction to these medications,” said first author Bridget Martell, M.D., assistant clinical professor of general internal medicine at Yale School of Medicine. “Our findings suggest that clinicians should consider other treatments with similar benefits but fewer long-term adverse effects.”