For many years, the medical and scientific communities have held the belief that "80-90% of attacks of low-back pain recover in about six weeks, no matter what type of treatment was given. A study published in the British Medical Journal dispels this myth.
The authors followed 463 adult low-back pain patients from their first visit to a general practitioner through the following 12 months. Their goal was to "investigate the claim that 90% of episodes of low back pain that present to general practice have resolved within one month."
They found that 91% of patients had not returned to their doctor after 3 months, prompting the doctor to conclude that they must have gotten better. Yet, when the authors of the study asked the patients how they were feeling they got a different answer. In this group, only 21% were pain free after 3 months, while over 79% were still experiencing pain or disability or both. When asked at 12 months, 75% were still having troubles.
The authors conclude that low back pain should not be considered one episode, but looked at as a “Chronic problem with an untidy pattern of grumbling symptoms and periods of relative freedom from pain and disability interspersed with acute episodes, flare ups and recurrences.” This takes account of two consistent observations about low-back pain: firstly, a previous episode of low-back pain is the strongest risk factor for a new episode and secondly, by the age of 30 years almost half the population will have experienced a substantive episode of low-back pain.
The characteristics of back pain as described by these researchers are not cured by a pill, muscle relaxants or most single-visit interventions. Back pain will eventually touch virtually everyone, probably more than once. As such, the spine (like teeth, muscles and many other highly functional parts of the human body) require care in maintenance form rather than just reacting to acute episodes.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Rick Schlussel is a Chiropractor and Applied Kinesiologist providing preventive health care, treatment for pain and injuries, holistic health assessments and a variety of natural therapies. He can be reached at Presence Wellness Center and Spa at 530-889-0388 or by email at email@example.com