Far too often, patients blame their low back pain on the action which brought the sudden discomfort to their attention, rather than seeking answers from daily habits that may just as easily have been the source of the pain. Read more about the Australian study shedding light on the misplaced blame for low back pain, below.
When researchers asked 999 adults what caused their back problems, about two thirds blamed a specific experience on the day their pain surfaced.
Because triggers for lower back pain can occur days or even weeks or months before the sudden onset of discomfort, however, it’s likely that many patients misplaced blame, said Dr. Scott Forseen, a back pain researcher at Georgia Regents University in Augusta.
“While acute back pain tends to have a good prognosis and will improve over time, failure to recognize red flags can have significant negative consequences,” Forseen, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.
Worldwide, lower back pain is a leading cause of disability, afflicting about one in 10 people, according to a recent estimate. The odds of developing this type of pain increase with age. It can often be treated with medication, exercise, heat or ice application, or sometimes with surgery.
Understanding what really may have triggered an episode of back pain may help people to avoid those causes in the future, according to the study authors, who were led by Patricia Parreira at the University of Sydney.
The researchers analyzed data from surveys completed by patients who went to the doctor seeking treatment. On average, study participants were about 45 years old and overweight. About 59% were male. The study team looked at how often the patients named common, established back pain triggers, as well as less well-known triggers, and used the information to see how often patients under- or overestimated the harmful effects of certain triggers.
Among the common triggers for lower back pain researchers asked about were lifting heavy or hard to grasp loads, vigorous exercise, sex, fatigue or drinking alcohol. Participants also specified whether exposure to the trigger was immediately before the pain started or within the previous 24 hours. Typically, the participants had around six previous episodes of lower back pain. Patients said the current flare up generally lasted about five days, including more than two days of reduced activity due to pain. During the first 24 hours of the current bout of back problems, about half of participants rated their pain as severe, while another 16% described it as extremely severe. Almost all of them said the pain interfered with work.
Many participants reported experiencing one of the common causes of back pain on the day the flare up started. But only 17% of them recalled experiencing these triggers during the previous 24 hours.