By Daniel Baldwin
Back pain has become the third most common reason why people are seeing their doctors and searching for a chiropractor near me, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). The association also reported that about 31 million Americans experienced low back pain and up to 80 percent of population will experience this sort of pain at some point in their lives. Over seven million adults cannot perform the most simple-to-difficult daily activities due to this pain, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and 24.7 percent of people with back problems reported limitation over their body movements and physical functions, according to the Medical Expenditure Survey.
Dr. Nicholas Qandah is a certified neurosurgeon at CNY Brain and Spine Neurosurgery in New Hartford, and he has met and treated people with this sort of issue everyday.
Although Qandah said that back pain is not the most common reason for people visiting the doctors, it is a close second.
“I think the sniffles and upper respiratory infections are still number one, and neck and back pain may be a close number two,” Qandah said. “Is it still prominent in our (Mohawk Valley) community and society? Yes. I think the demographics are equivalent across the United States. It falls into the same percentage basis across the country as well as into our area. We treat and meet people with back, neck, and spine problems everyday.”
Aymen Rashid, an orthopedic spine surgeon at Slocum Dickson, said that a majority of his patients had pain in their back. Although the growing trend of people, experiencing this sort of pain, was not that much of a surprise to him.
“It makes perfect sense,” Rashid said. “People are becoming more active. We have people who are becoming older, and there’s also a trend of obesity rising, so I think a combination of these three puts a lot more stress on the human body.”
It is not that much of a problem if people experience back pain for a short amount of time, as Qandah said that it is just a chronic strain in the back muscles that could go away with proper rest. But if this sort of pain does not go away, keeps coming back, or worsens, then it could result in damage to the spine. According to the 2005 Survey of Income and Program Participation, 7.6 million adults with disabilities claimed back and spine pain as the main reason why they are disabled. People who are experiencing these catastrophic levels of pain should visit their doctor and get it treated as soon as possible.
“The term back pain is very broad and covers many different types of pathologies,” Qandah said. “Not all back pain comes from the same source, but the main component of this is that there are many joints to the spine. The spine protects, covers, and supports the spinal cord and nerves that run through it. So when the back is degenerated, injured, or you have pain, which usually is a sign or symptom that something is wrong, then those innervations by those nerves are affected and could lead to more permanent damage of the nerve or surrounding structures that could then lead to disability. If something persist or keeps coming back, in those situations it’s better to get that diagnosed early rather than wait until it gets bad enough and you need something more aggressive in terms of treatment.”
People could get back pain by constantly lifting and carrying heavy objects at their labor-intensive jobs. Sitting countless hours in an uncomfortable office chair or truck seat could also cause pain towards that region. Even a person’s weight could affect their back.
Qandah recently met with one patient who said that his weight gain was putting a ton of pressure on his back and increasing the pain.
“He (patient) said ‘listen, I haven’t been this heavy in a while. I can’t walk that much anymore because, I’m in pain in my back, and I’m not able to golf like I was in the past. My nutritional status may not be the best, and I’m gaining weight.’ Having a heavier belly puts more pressure on your back,” Qandah said.
Rather than going straight to surgery, Qandah first tried to get the patient’s age, height, and weight, and then the doctor offered dietary plans that would help reduce his weight and most importantly reduce the amount of pressure in that area.
“We did that (get his age, height, and weight) with he and his wife,” Qandah said, “and we were able to provide a dietary modality for him that had shown a lot of more success and weight loss, and we’re not talking about 10 pounds a week, which is ridiculous. We’re talking about losing one-maybe two pounds a week at best and really improving that over a year period of time, and in that meantime getting him on the right medications to try to help maximize his function as well as hooking him up with a good physical therapy program, which will help him strengthen his core. He actually came to me because we treated his neighbor, who has seen such great success from this, and he (patient) came in to get that evaluation as well.”
People who have cancer, arthritis, or osteoporosis are likely to experience back pain as well.
“There’s a lot of different ways people can get back pain,” Rashid said. “People can get them from having weak bones. One of the most common reasons is osteoporosis. Another reason can be loss of different medical comorbidities such as cancer. People can have cancer that could spread to their bones, and that can cause people to have significant pain. Arthritis is another big player. As people age they get arthritis. Just like in their knee and their hips, they can get arthritis in the joints throughout the back, which can cause significant pain.”