Four out of five Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Today, back pain management often includes the overuse of treatments like surgeries, MRIs, x-rays, and medications. And it’s an expensive prospect: The annual tally on low back and neck pain treatment in the U.S. is at least $87 billion, according to a study in the Journal of American Medical Association.
As it turns out, experts are testing less expensive solutions that aim to prevent occurrences of back pain in the first place, and the results are encouraging. A study called Prevention of Low Back Pain investigated the effectiveness of interventions like education and exercise in preventing low back pain. The key, according to the study, is the combination of exercise and education. Exercise alone is thought to make a difference, but when used in conjunction, exercise and education pack the most powerful punch.
The Best Avenue
The best avenue is to see a healthcare professional like a physical therapist who is trained to prevent and treat pain through movement and exercise, hands-on care, and patient education. These movement specialists perform evaluations to assess your muscular, postural, and skeletal limitations, and other factors that could one day contribute to back pain.
You probably equate physical therapists with exercise, but did you know that patient education also is a cornerstone of the physical therapy profession? Relying on their formal education and practice experience, PTs can provide insights and interventions that reduce excess body mass, improve health status and reduce associated chronic disease risk by increasing physical activity.
Not only is it easy to find physical therapists that lead evidence-based prevention and wellness programs right in your community, but once you’ve made an appointment, you’ll benefit from personalized one-on-one care and easy access. You can expect the PT to begin treatment by gathering pertinent information about your movement patterns, limitations, posture, and other factors that might contribute to back pain. Once the physical therapist has observed you perform a series of exercises and gathered an account of your daily activity level and environmental factors like working at a desk 40 hours a week, she can teach you a few strategies to prevent back pain.
Lifestyle can play a big role in back pain.
In fact, inactivity and incorrect body mechanics while participating in certain activities are two of the biggest contributors to back pain. In addition to the strategies listed above, it’s also helpful to pay attention to little things throughout your day that could add up to bigger problems down the line. Let’s go back to that desk job for a minute: How often do you get up to walk, stretch and move throughout the day? A good rule of thumb is to stand up or move every 30 minutes. You may get bonus points with your boss, too, as your productivity soars due to the increased activity.
While low back pain rarely becomes serious or life-threatening, it can be quite painful and interfere with our daily lives. Working with a physical therapist can help patients identify the factors that might contribute to back pain and help to develop a prevention plan. But the healthcare professionals are also a great place to turn when you’re seeking treatment for back pain or hoping to prevent a recurrence.
With such good odds that you could one day become a low back pain statistic, why not do everything in your power today to change your trajectory? Seems like another good reason to find an activity (or better yet, two or three activities) that you enjoy, make it a regular part of your day and stick to it!
And with eight in 10 people experiencing back pain at some point in their lives, preventing incidences would not only take a huge chunk out of the staggering annual costs associated with treatments like medications and surgeries but also ensure that people are on the road to better health.
Reach out to your PT today! Schedule your appointment.