4 out of 5 CNY Adults Suffer Back Pain, Cause can be Hard to Pin Down

Apr 2, 2018

Back pain in one of the top two reasons people seek care from a doctor.
Credit Blausen.com staff

Central New Yorkers suffering with back pain might not know the best way to do something about it.  There can be a wide range of causes – which you might want to know before choosing the best therapy.

If the groan of back pain, getting up from a chair or leaning over, sounds familiar, well you're hardly alone.

“80 % of adults experience back pain at some point in their lives.  It’s one of the most common causes of disability in our country.  Across our country it costs about $100 Billion a year, mostly in time out of work," says Mayo Clinic Doctor Eric Nottmeier.  "It’s one of the top two reasons people seek care from their primary care physicians is low back pain.”

Nottmeier sees these patients all the time and says it can be due to one type of strain, such as lifting something heavy, but a lot of other reasons often come into play, some as serious as cancer in the spine. 

Doctor Justin Iorio, a Neck and Spine Specialist at SOS, Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists here in Syracuse, finds it’s usually more than one factor.

“There’s a genetic disposition; there’s things like smoking tobacco.  We know that causes damage to the discs and the spine.  On a daily basis many of us sit down at work or in front of computers, and we’re hunched over.  Prolonged sitting and prolonged driving are certainly contributors to back pain.”

And both doctors mention obesity as a constant strain on the disks and joints in the back.  The big question is: what to do about it?  Iorio calls surgery a 50-50 proposition.

“Surgery is very successful in patients that have nerve-related pain, pain that goes down the leg or typical sciatica.  Some people will get tremendous arm pain, burning, numbness, tingling.  Those are neurologic problems caused from either deformation or degenerative disease in the neck or back.” 

The Mayo Clinic’s Nottmeier adds new techniques are minimally invasive.

“Instead of making a typical mid-line incision and spreading the muscle and exposing the spine, you can do smaller incisions.  That can result in less pain in the immediate post-op period.  Minimally invasive can also result in less blood loss at surgery.”

Medication or physical therapy can be effective in some cases.  More on back pain, how to prevent it and treat it, is at our website, WAER.org.