HOUSTON (May 14, 2019) – According to a recent survey, the incidence of back pain in people over 30 is more than 90 percent, with 35 percent of respondents experiencing back pain on a daily basis. According to Georgetown’s Health Policy Institute, back pain is the sixth most costly condition in the United States and a leading cause of work-loss days and work limitations. (https://hpi.georgetown.edu/backpain/) But it doesn’t have to be this way. Kelsey-Seybold Pain Management and Rehabilitation clinicians want to help patients prevent back pain and improve outcomes.
A survey about back pain and spine health was evenly distributed across the country to nearly 300 people, age 30 or older, and revealed interesting insights. Respondents anonymously answered questions regarding back pain and spine health. Kelsey-Seybold Clinic physicians reviewed the results and found that most people over 30 have ongoing and consistent back pain.
Demographically, the survey reached 270 individuals living in all regions in the United States, male and female. Surprisingly, 70 percent of the respondents shared that they work in non-labor-intensive careers, and 75 percent of respondents experience back pain frequently – 35 percent daily and 40 percent monthly.
“Something we have to deal with frequently in clinic is educating patients on the fact that back pain is not necessarily tied to labor-intensive jobs. In fact, it is associated with living and working in sedentary conditions where people are sitting for long periods of time,” said Ayse Dural, M.D., Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – The Woodlands. “It’s one of those things where if you don’t use your back muscles, you lose that muscle tone, which acts as a protectant from back pain. Our bodies were meant for movement – and no amount of ergonomic office setup is going to outweigh the fact that we sit, and sit, and sit for nine-plus hours per day.”
Interestingly, 47 percent of survey respondents shared that changes in weather patterns or barometric pressure increases back pain levels. Houstonians and those living in the surrounding areas will agree that living near the Gulf of Mexico can add a level of variability in weather patterns that other areas may not experience. Twenty- and 30-degree temperature variations in the winter months, and powerful thunderstorms in the spring and fall, are commonplace – which may contribute to the increased incidence of back pain flare ups in those months.
“We all know someone who says they can predict when rain or weather systems are coming because they can feel the change in their body – and there may be some truth to this,” said Ahmed Sewielam, M.D., F.I.P.P., Interventional Pain Management at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Berthelsen Main Campus and Fort Bend Medical and Diagnostic Center. “We see a significant increase in the number of people coming in for pain injections or assessments in the fall, winter, and early spring months. The variability in weather, ongoing pain that these patients have to deal with, and lack of sunlight in the fall and winter months also seem to drive up the incidence of related mental health conditions – most frequently depression.”
Forty-one percent of survey respondents shared that they experience anxiety or depression related to their back pain.
In the same way individuals care for themselves by engaging in good habits like making healthy food choices and exercising, so too should spine health become central to daily activities. Survey respondents were asked which exercises work best to help strengthen back muscles – and 30 percent believed that vigorous aerobic exercises could help strengthen back muscles. However, activities such as running or jogging may negatively impact your spine and other joints. Resistance training – such as yoga, Pilates, and swimming – as well as weight-bearing exercises are likely the best options when the goal is to strengthen back muscles.
“When a patient comes to see me for an acute back issue, exercise may not be part of the initial plan of care. The main objective at an appointment like that is to figure out how to best get this person back to a functional level of activity,” said Steve Kim, D.O., Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Pasadena Clinic, Summer Creek Clinic, and Berthelsen Main Campus. “However, if you’re hoping to reduce the chances of having an appointment like that in the future, back strengthening exercises – resistance training and weight-bearing exercises – should be incorporated into your exercise routine to maintain spine health and prevent an acute episode.”