Short Term Back Pain = Long Term Problems

We’ve all suffered from occasional back pain.  Perhaps a day of yard work or heavy lifting has left you wincing in pain.   However, a recent study published in The Journal of Pain suggests that the short-term back pain you feel now could be a precursor to long-term pain and disability.

The study followed roughly 500 people who were treated for lower back pain.  They answered questionnaires every six months for five years. People with high back pain at the start had a 12 percent higher risk of back pain at six months and a nine percent higher risk at five years.

The findings confirm previous research showing that initial low back pain intensity is a key predictor of future pain and disability, but this study is the first to show this association over a long period of time, according to researchers Paul Campbell and colleagues with the Arthritis Research U.K. Primary Care Center.

Short-term lower back pain is usually due to inflammationin the joints, from stress and strain. The standard approach is short-term treatment of the inflammation, but the study suggests long-term strategies may be helpful.  Short-term treatment often includes rest and anti-inflammatory medication.  Long-term – weight loss, exercise and stretching to maintain good muscle tone along the spine, not smoking, and good lifting technique using your leg muscles and not your back muscles can go a long way toward a healthy back later on.

Having a positive outlook may help, too.  The study reports that those who believed they would have persistent pain had a four percent higher risk at six months, and a six percent higher risk at five years.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, up to 70 percent of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their lives and many will progress to long-term, chronic low back pain.