Back pain is one of the most common reasons for people to see their doctor. Studies show that 80-90% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives, and 1-2% of adults in the U.S. are disabled because of low back pain. Fortunately though, most of these cases of back pain are self-limiting (lasting days to weeks at most) and do not cause any long-term problems.

In 2006 the cost of direct medical care for low back pain was over $86 billion, and that number continues to skyrocket. Of course there are also associated costs like over-the-counter remedies and time lost from work that are harder to quantify, but likely much higher figures. But despite the rising amount of money being spent on treating back pain, both the Archives of Internal Medicine and JAMA reported within the last several years that the outcomes of that treatment have declined and the progression of back pain continues. There are many possible causes of low back pain and many factors that can influence the perception of back pain.

First line treatment for low back pain is usually self-management with activity modification, heat or ice and over the counter Tylenol or anti-inflammmatories. If these are not effective, individuals often present to their primary care physician who may recommend prescription muscle relaxers or anti-inflammatories. If the back pain persists for more than 4-6 weeks, referral to physiatry is often recommended. The physiatrist will evaluate the need for imaging or for an exercise program, either at home or in physical therapy. If conservative measures do not work, we can then proceed with more invasive measures such as injections or surgical consultation.

What are you doing now to reduce your risk of back pain? Poor core strength, bad body mechanics, obesity and sedentary lifestyle are all risk factors for back pain…. and all of these can be prevented or fixed. If you are in the Pensacola, Florida area and would like to be evaluated for your back issues, please contact my office to schedule an appointment. Outside of Pensacola, you can find a physiatrist close to you by clicking on the link to the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation website.

In the coming blog posts, I will discuss specific causes of low back pain along with how we diagnose and treat them.

Christopher Burton, MD
Christopher Burton, MD

Christopher Burton, MD is a physician, speaker, coach and author, practicing in Pensacola, FL. He specializes in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, which focuses on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of conditions - particularly those of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems - that may produce temporary or permanent impairment of function. Dr. Burton also provides one-on-one Health & Wellness Coaching for select clients who want to improve their life significantly. In addition to his practice and coaching, he actively lectures on health, nutrition and exercise for healthcare groups, colleges, and businesses, and travels internationally teaching on various topics including the treatment and rehabilitation of athletes.