Low back pain ranks as one of the more common ailments from which people in the U.S. suffer. Anywhere from 60-80% of U.S. adults experience low back pain, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC).

At any given moment, that leaves up to 31 million people in the U.S. with low back pain, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). Each year, about 50% of working adults in the U.S. report back pain, making it one of the leading causes for missing work.

The condition disables more individuals younger than 45 than any other cause, and forces 13 million people to visit the doctor annually, according to UMMC.  All the doctors’ visits and treatment plans make for an expensive public health issue. Nationally, people spend about $50 billion annually to find relief.

Although back pain is distressingly common, some causes are preventable.

The risk for experiencing low back pain increases as you age, especially if you’re overweight or don’t exercise. Having a job that requires frequent lifting or spinal twisting can also exacerbate your risk for lower back pain.

You can mitigate many of the risk factors by being proactive. Quitting smoking—another way to increase the likelihood of lower back pain—exercising, and keeping a normal body weight can all help keep your body and back healthy. Sitting and standing with good posture, and bending your knees to lift objects instead of bending at the waist also work to keep your spine healthy and reduce the risk of low back pain.

Unfortunately, some causes of low back pain are not prevented as easily. Disorders such as osteoporosis can lead to spinal compression fractures. Arthritis can also lead to back pain.

Just as not all causes of back pain are equal, the discomfort typically falls into one of two categories: acute or chronic.

Acute back pain frequently heals on its own, while chronic sufferers benefit from treatment plans.

Acute pain typically lasts fewer than six month and usually results from sustaining an injury. Chronic pain, however, may result from a condition such as osteoporosis, a degenerative disc disease, or arthritis. Chronic pain lasts longer and may require ongoing effort to manage.

Do you or anyone you know suffer from low back pain? 

Image by Eugenio Wilman via Flickr

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