Low back pain dramatically on the rise

Acupuncture opportunity, but highly preventable

A recent report in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that America may be headed for an epidemic of low back problems.

The researchers, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that the proportion of people suffering from long term, impairing low back pain has more than doubled in North Carolina since the early 1990s, with over 10 percent of the population now reporting this condition.

This comes as no surprise to acupuncturists, as low back pain is one of the most common problems we treat – it is, depending on who you listen to the first or second most common cause of disability in the US.  Treating this problem not only demands an enormous amount of health care, it also accounts for a huge number of missed work days.  Fortunately, as many studies have recently confirmed, acupuncture is very effective at treating this condition.

Interestingly, the researchers reported that the increases in low back pain were found in both men and women, and across all ages, racial and ethnic groups.
So what might lie behind this alarming statistic?

The researchers did not specifically research this issue – cause and effect are notoriously hard to pin down – but speculated that possible causes might include increasing rates of obesity, depression, and awareness of the condition.

However, I think that common sense would suggest that our modern lifestyles play a huge role in this problem.  Three factors would seem likely to combine to produce this problem:

•    Activities such as sitting in a car or working at a computer:  These place our bodies in unnatural positions for hours at a time, putting a tremendous ongoing strain on the low back.

•    Sedentary lifestyles:  Our bodies have a ‘corset’ of strong muscles around the core of the body to protect the lower back – however, lack of exercise weakens these muscles.

•    Obesity:  In addition to carrying extra pounds, people who are severely overweight move and carry themselves in different ways, putting more strain on the low back.

When you combine these factors you have a recipe for disaster.  The answer?  Exercise regularly, with particular attention on your core muscles, keep your weight under control, and if your job involves extensive sitting, get up and move around regularly.

Author
Adam Learner, L Ac. Adam Learner, LAc, provides functional medicine and acupuncture for the residents of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at Family Acupuncture & Wellness. In his practice, he uses a holistic approach to medicine and emphasizes addressing causes, not symptoms.

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