Although Low Back Pain (LBP) is thought to affect around 80% of individuals, it is also thought to be self limited and get better quickly (within weeks). Studies of patient populations however suggest that it is actually a more serious problem. Although most patients who experience back pain do not see a doctor, 60-80% of those that do are still reporting pain one year later and in those whose pain has disappeared, 20% will have a recurrence within months.
A large number of patients (40-50%) will not see a medical physician for their pain preferring to receive alternative treatment, in large part due to the inability of our current model to help many of the patients suffering with lower back pain and neck pain. If there were a test to determine who was at risk not to have their pain eliminated and to be become a chronic sufferer, this could alert the clinician to employ more than one approach to ease the pain. Published predictive studies are too different to compare outcomes although the following factors are consistently found to predict poor outcome in the reviewed studies: older age, poor general health, increased psychological or psychosocial stress, poor relations with colleagues, physically heavy work, worse baseline functional disability, sciatica, and the presence of compensation.
Complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) is used by 40-60% of patients in the US to deal with their back pain . The mechanism for effectiveness of the various CAM approaches deserves study as does the role of muscles in low back pain. The absence of a standardized routine examination of muscles’ strength, flexibility, and tenderness in patients with back pain ignores an important variable especially in light of the fact that the most common diagnosis for acute back pain is Non-specific Low Back Pain, referring to sprains and strains of muscles and other soft tissue.
The bottom line is that our current system of care for lower back pain is sorely in need of review and revision.
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