Back Pain 101
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke, back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the U.S., behind headache.
- 31 million Americans, or approximately 10% of the U.S. population, experience lower back pain at any given time (American Chiropractic Association)
- 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives (American Chiropractic Association)
- Acute lower back pain is the fifth most common reason for all physician visits (Hart, et al. 2005)
- 50% of the working population has back pain every year (Nachemson 1992)
- It is estimated that 85% of patients cannot be given a precise patho-anatomical diagnosis for back pain, which further confounds the differential diagnosis (Jensen, et al. 1994)
The direct and indirect health care costs in the USA are estimated to be over $90 billion per year (Phillips, 2004 ). Not only are more people seeking treatment for back pain, but the price of treatment per person continues to increase yearly. In a retrospective study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA; Martin, et al, Feb 2008), researchers at the University of Washington and Oregon Health & Science University compared national data from 3,179 adult patients who reported spine problems in 1997; they found that inflation-adjusted annual medical costs increased from $4,695 per person to $6,096. Despite the rising expenditures, 15 percent of U.S. adults reported back problems in 2008, an increase from 12 percent in 1997.
The need for alternative approaches for the relief of lower back pain is also underscored by other important issues:
- A multitude of surgical procedures are utilized for lower back pain management, but produce limited efficacy (less than 25% of back surgery patients show pain free function). In addition, surgical procedures for the lower back have significant morbidity rates (more than 35%).
- Pharmaceutical approaches also have associated morbidity, particularly gastro-intestinal side effects; in addition, many patients find initial relief, but most analgesics lose effectiveness over time.
- Simple devices such as back supports, hot/cold backs, and stretching apparatus have no clinical proven efficacy, but non-invasive topical products control more than $5 billion of the overall pain management market
- More sophisticated (and costly) devices such as TENS have shown only modest clinical efficacy.
There is continued interest for new lower back pain management products that are non-invasive and non-pharmacologic.