Suffering from low back pain? Keep moving

Posted April 26, 2012, at 3:55 p.m.
Last modified April 26, 2012, at 4:39 p.m.
Source: American Physical Therapy Association
Source: American Physical Therapy Association

Nearly two-thirds of Americans experience low back pain, but 37 percent do not seek professional help, according to a survey by the American Physical Therapy Association.

The “Move Forward” low back pain survey provided results from more than 2,600 adults.

“Most people experience low back pain at some point in their lives, but many people don’t realize they can prevent or treat the condition with the help of a physical therapist,” said Danielle Haggerty, physical therapist and owner of Dragonfly Therapy in Bangor. “For Americans living with low back pain, everyday tasks can be a challenge, and this survey revealed just how much this condition can affect someone’s quality of life.”

Highlights from the survey include:

• More than one-third of adults say low back pain has affected their ability to engage in tasks of daily living (39 percent), exercise (38 percent) and sleep (37 percent).

• Low back pain doesn’t just affect people who spend a lot of time on their feet. Over half (54 percent) of Americans who experience low back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting.

• Men (31 percent) are more likely than women (20 percent) to report that low back pain affects their ability to work.

• Nearly three in four (72 percent) Americans use pain medication as to relieve symptoms of low back pain. More than half (55 percent) said they use heat and cold packs at home.

While low back pain is a common problem, it doesn’t have to be a common part of everyday life. Physical therapists advise staying as active as possible and sticking to a normal routine, since bed rest for longer than a day can actually slow recovery.

Most low back pain is caused by overuse, strain or injury. Rarely, low back pain results from a more serious condition such as a herniated disc or osteoarthritis. If pain lasts more than a few days or gets worse, it may be advisable to make an appointment with a physical therapist.

Physical therapists get to the source of the problem and develop a treatment plan, which might include a combination of exercises to strengthen the back, manual therapy to improve the mobility of joints and soft tissues, and education about how to take better care of the back to relieve pain in the long term.

“Results from the survey confirmed what we suspected — that low back pain has an impact on everyday life, and Americans often focus on the symptoms, rather than the cause of their back pain,” said Haggerty. “What they might not know is that movement often provides the best long-term relief for pain.”

The Move Forward Low Back Pain Survey was conducted online in the United States by Harris Interactive Dec. 15-19, 2011, among 2,646 adults ages 18 and older.

Contributed by the American Physical Therapy Association

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