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Why You Need to Take Chronic Back Pain Seriously

Published May 16, 2017

Experts suggest that the phrase, “My back is killing me!” may not be an overdramatic statement after all.

Chronic pain affects over 100 million Americans according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. Chronic back pain is also the leading cause of disability in Americans under the age of 45 years old. And more than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 experience chronic back pain at some point in their lives.

Putting it to the Test

Scientists recorded death rates in 4,390 Danish twins (yes, we said twins) aged 70 years and above to see if there was a link between early death and chronic back pain.

The study compared those without chronic spinal, back or neck pain to people with those conditions.

Dr. Paulo Ferreira of the University of Sydney in Australia explained that each year, those with chronic spinal [back and neck] pain, have a 13 percent of not living past the current year.

“This is a significant finding, as many people think that chronic back pain is not life-threatening,” he said.

Ferreira explained that studying twins allowed the scientists to rule out shared genetic factors as a major influence on the results. If one pair of identical twins, who share the same genes, died earlier than the other, inherited genes were unlikely to be the cause of death.

“These findings warrant further investigation because while there is a clear link between chronic back pain and mortality, we don’t know yet why this is so,” explained Dr. Ferreira.

Chronic pain is often defined as any persistent pain lasting more than 12 weeks, whereas acute pain is a normal sensation that alerts us to possible injury.

“Policymakers should be aware that back pain is a 'serious issue',” Dr. Ferreira added.

Dr. Matthew Fernandez, an associate of Ferreira's, said, “With a rapidly growing aging population, spinal health is critical in maintaining older age independence, highlighting the importance of spinal pain in primary health care as a presenting symptom. Back pain should be recognized as an important co-morbidity that is likely to impact people’s longevity and quality of life.”Fernandez.

Breaking it Down

Maybe your chronic back pain stems from an injury or trauma. Maybe it's from age-related wear or tear, but if it's from your diet and fitness routine — or lack thereof, please continue reading.

Eating out all the time, making poor nutritious decisions and simply not moving or exercising actually play a pivotal role in your chronic pain exacerbating the problem. Trust us when we say, we know it can be hard to cook a fresh meal and work out because of your chronic back pain. You hurt and the last thing you want to do is go to the gym and bake a chicken.

Or maybe you've had too many of your favorite McDonald's french fries (did someone say French fries?) for far too long. What we are trying to say here is that you need to understand that poor diet and lack of bodily movement actually increases your mortality risk in the older population.

In order to prevent any further complications, you want to try and tackle the problem now so that when you are older, the complications will be less, and in order to know what the problem is, you need to get checked out by a doctor.

“The best treatment for back [pain] is a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity,” Dr. Fernandez said. “People need to get moving.”

Force yourself to go outside. Go on a light walk. We aren't talking about sprinting down the track or cross-country marathons, a light jog will do it. Ask a friend to join you and venture through your neighborhood for some vitamin D and circulation flow — your body and mood will thank you. Your older self will also thank you.

Swap French fries for sweet potato fries. If you are anything like us and we think you are, sometimes cooking isn't fun. We won't sugar coat it (pun intended). These days, there are so many alternatives to cooking such as meal delivery services that provide ready to go healthy meals straight to your door. All you have to do is click a few buttons online and before you know it, a gourmet meal is yours. Many people also opt for slow-cookers or pressure cookers. Just drop in the ingredients, set the temperature, and let it do the cooking for you.

Most importantly, get your symptoms checked out. Even if you think it's something small or irrelevant — it may not be, and why risk your health? After all, if you don't have your health — what do you have? Nothing.

If you don't have a general physician, go to an urgent care or the emergency room. If you do have a medical team, take advantage of them — that's why they are here. Don't wait until it gets worse. Tackle it now and it'll make the long run that much more worth it. And you are worth it. Don't wait any longer!

All of this may be easier said than done but fret not. The statistics prove that you are not the only one suffering. There are literally millions of people who know how you feel — physically and mentally — you already share an unspoken bond. The numbers don't lie. 

So find yourself a back buddy and make this a group effort whether they give you support online or in real life. We know that pain can be personal, but it doesn't have to be. Whether it's someone else in chronic back pain or just a friend, get moving people (hey, we are simply quoting Dr. Fernandez).

With so many others experiencing chronic pain, specifically chronic back pain, putting off a doctor visit may be a matter of life and death — making it essential to get checked out — even if you don't feel like it — do it. We know how deliberating your chronic back pain can be so we are here to put things into perspective and hopefully, this article motivates you to finally make it to that appointment.

Updated: April 19, 2019

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