If you experience regular back pain, and especially if you’ve been reading about and researching treatments for back pain, you may come away feeling like just about everyone in the world is dealing with back pain. But is back pain really becoming more common? The answer is a qualified yes. Chronic back pain likely is more common, but it’s not like a contagious disease that’s transmitted from person to person, or an illness that’s caused by exposure to something in your environment. Instead, there are a myriad number of reasons having to do with changing demographics and behavior patterns that contribute to the increased incidence of back pain.
On a long-term scale, as American society has become more sedentary — transitioning from manual labor and factory jobs to service and office jobs — there has been a concurrent increase in complaints of ailments like back pain. It’s been noted that in other countries, especially those with a more agriculturally based economy, rates of back pain are lower. However, it’s unclear if this actually indicates a lower incidence of back pain. While physical activity and fitness certainly help protect you against back pain, repetitive physical labor is often linked to chronic pain. The difference in rates of reported back pain might reflect other variables like access to healthcare. Still, it is true that other behaviors associated with an increase in back pain are on the rise in the U.S. Specifically, the number of Americans who are overweight or obese has risen dramatically. Increased back pain is just one of the many health problems that can be caused by excess body weight.
The biggest contributor to the increasing incidence of back pain is America’s an aging population. With the Baby Boom generation headed into retirement, the American medical industry has to play catch up to keep the population healthy. There’s a reason that so much health advice encourages people to start young: When we age, the damage we may have done to our bodies in our younger years can start to have an increased impact on our wellbeing. Old injuries, even ones that seemed to have healed, can begin causing pain again. Years of poor lifestyle habits tend to catch up with you, too: A poor diet or lack of exercise can contribute to problems like back pain. But even if you’ve been vigilant about exercising all your life, aging may mean that you need to adjust your exercise routine to make sure you are not overtaxing your body.
Back pain is probably a more common problem than it once was. However, that doesn’t mean that its causes are mysterious. More importantly, especially if you’re struggling with chronic back pain, the treatment options are more extensive than in the past as we have come to better understand what causes pain and how best to treat it. At the Spine Institute Northwest, we make sure to keep up to date on the latest research in pain medicine, and we offer our patients the most cutting-edge therapies for treating back pain. To learn more, contact us at 206-496-0630.