Back Pain: How to Cure It, And What Happens If You Don’t

Longterm impact of back pain –  disability, depression, drug dependence 

Medical News Today – Past research has shown that back pain — specifically lower back pain — is the “leading cause of activity limitation and work absence throughout much of the world.”

But back pain is also associated with numerous mental health symptoms, including anxiety and depression.

One study found that “low back and neck pain accounted for the third-highest amount” spent on healthcare in the United States, costing tens of billions of dollars per year.

Now, three specialists have looked into the effects of back pain in the general population over time.

The good news and the bad

The researchers analyzed data collected from 12,782 participants based in Canada, whose health they followed from 1994 to 2011.

The investigators interviewed the participants once every 2 years, gathering information on their levels and frequency of pain, disability status, drug use, and visits to physicians.

The researchers identified four categories of back pain:

  • persistent (reported by 18 percent of participants)
  • developing (28 percent)
  • occasional (33 percent)
  • recovery from back pain (20 percent)

The researchers found that the participants with persistent or developing back pain tended to experience more pain overall, as well as greater disability.

They used more drugs for pain relief and paid more visits to doctors than individuals who had occasional back pain or who had recovered.

Participants in the recovery group also reported taking increasing dosages of opioids over time.

“The good news is that 1 in 5 people with back pain recovered,” says the study’s lead author, Mayilee Canizares, Ph.D. “[H]owever,” she adds, “they continued to use opioids and antidepressants, suggesting that people recovering from back pain need ongoing monitoring.”

“The bad news was that 1 in 5 experienced persistent back pain, with an additional group — almost 1 in 3 — who developed back pain over time. These two groups were associated with greater pain limiting activity, disability, and depression, as well as increased healthcare and medication use.” Read more. 

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