According to a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) study, 25-30% of Americans are experiencing some degree of low back pain. That's 2 out of every 5 of us! As a reference point, diabetes has a prevalence of about 10.5%, while Cardiovascular Disease has a prevalence of about 7-8%. Low back pain has a prevalence 2-4 times MORE common then other serious chronic diseases! If this is the case, then why haven't we heard as much about low back pain and it's serious side effects?
1) It's not "as serious as a heart attack". Often times we are attracted to what we call "car explosion" diagnoses. Human nature is to consider the diseases/causes that are most threatening to our survival at the individual level. Call it a survival instinct. We don't give low back pain much consideration because, at least objectively, it's literally not as serious as a heart attack. The margin might be a lot closer than you think (explained below).
2) There are often symptoms outside of pain, that we don't realize are correlated with low back dysfunction. When we think of pain, we imagine writhing in substantial discomfort, inflammation, muscle spasms, and lots and lots of ibuprofen. However, because low back pain is a product of dysfunction of the spine and interruption of the nervous system, there are other symptoms outside of pain that indicate low back dysfunction such as numbness and tingling in the legs and feet, loss of bladder control, dysfunction of the digestive system, and tightness/radiating pain to the groin.
3) THE AMOUNT OF OPIODS AND ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS IN THE UNITED STATES IS DRASTICALLY UNREGULATED. Did you know that between October 2021 and January 2022, 105,000 Americans died from Opioid overdose? (www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-10625023/A-record-105-000-Americans-died-drug-overdose-October-2020-2021.html) That's almost 2x the number of U.S. Soldiers that died in the Vietnam war, in 3 months. Of course, those causes of death are very different. We're only using that statistic as a reference point.
This statistic is important because it highlights 2 main factors. 1) There are probably a lot more Americans that suffer from low back pain that no longer report themselves as "suffering from low back pain" because they are taking opioids that mask the pain. 2) While these deaths are reported as "overdose" from opioids, we need to consider the factors that led to their prescription in the first place. How many of these scripts were written for patients with low back pain?
A final thing to consider about low back pain is what it can lead to. We mentioned diabetes and cardiovascular health in the beginning as statistical reference points. But imagine this... You severely injure your low back. You go to the urgent care and they write you a prescription for an opioid. While you're taking the medication, you spend a lot of time laying on the couch/in bed after work. You stop exercising and eating healthy. Imagine the impact that will have on your heart health and overall wellness. That is what a lot of Americans experiencing low back pain are facing.
If you are experiencing low back pain that's lasted for more than 72 hours, it's absolutely essential that you see a licensed medical provider. Your low back pain may be more significant than you're giving it credit for.