Low back pain has become increasingly common worldwide. The Global Burden of Disease study of 2010, published this year by the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, found that low back pain was ranked as the leading cause of disability out of the 291 conditions studied. The prevalence of low back pain was estimated to be about 31 percent among the general adult population globally. In the United States alone, Americans spend about $50 billion every year treating low back pain. As low back pain becomes the primary concern for employment disability, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders (NINDS) states that the cause is due to sedentary lifestyles and behaviors, both at home and in the workplace.
As daily levels of activity continue to decline, research suggests that musculoskeletal pain is more common now than it was 40 years ago. This decrease in physical activity is contributing to the rise in chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes, but also to an increase in musculoskeletal pain, injuries and disorders that may ultimately lead to disability.
In an article published by Lancet titled, “Musculoskeletal Conditions- the Second Greatest Cause of Disability,” it is explained that disability due to musculoskeletal disorders has increased over 45 percent from 1990, with neck and back pain sufferers estimated to total nearly 964 million people worldwide. There are about 40 million people in the United States on disability annually, and it has been estimated that 25 percent of today’s young adults will become disabled before they retire. Low back pain is one of the primary causes of musculoskeletal degeneration, which affects close to 80 percent of the adult population and is the number one cause of lost work days in the United States.
Predominantly experienced by those who work in enclosed work spaces, low back pain can develop in individuals who sit for longer than three hours at a time. Research has found that the prevalence of low back pain was highest between the ages of 30 and 60. This age range represents part of the most productive years of an individual’s working life, which has major economic consequences for not only the injured person but entire families, businesses and ultimately, governments.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 60 percent of work-related injuries involve the low back and the estimated monetary value of lost work time resulting from musculoskeletal injuries was about $120 billion. Statistics such as these greatly support the need for more physical activity and exercise among adults.
Disability due to low back pain is a top concern, the cause of which is mostly due to sedentary lifestyles and behaviors. As lifestyle habits have turned to more sedentary activities such as watching TV and using the computer, as well as long periods of time spent commuting and sitting in the workplace, the reduction in physical activity has led to a number of problems that contribute to low back pain. Weight gain and obesity certainly put excess stress on the bones and joints of the body, while unnatural postures and repetitive movements caused by day-to-day work and living conditions leave the core of the body vulnerable to injury.
Ironically, while low back pain may be the leading cause of disability, it is largely preventable. Treatment for low back pain and injury can consist of pain medication, physical therapy, bed rest and, at worst, surgery, but the most effective way to prevent and treat low back pain is exercise. There are certain factors, like age and genetic predispositions, that contribute to low back pain and musculoskeletal disorders that cannot be avoided but fortunately, exercise and regular physical activity can reduce the risk of injury.
Core training helps to uniformly strengthen the deep and superficial muscles of the back and abdomen that stabilize, align and move a person’s trunk. Essentially, low back pain comes from weakened core muscles involving the abdomen and the back, which become isolated and underused during static behavior and posture. A weak core creates fundamental weaknesses which lead to injuries resulting from inefficient movement, improper balance and postural distortions. For those suffering from pain in their low back or who are simply seeking to avoid it, core training is necessary for both prevention and treatment.
Sedentary lifestyles have caused millions to suffer from low back pain and injury, making it the top concern in employment disability. While the cost of disability due to low back pain is high, and treatments for back problems can be timely and expensive, strengthening the core does not have to be. Basic education on body systems and how essential physical activity is to health and fitness are readily available online, while core work can be done at home for free and can be done in as little as 10 to 15 minutes a day.
Other forms of physical activity, such as yoga and Pilates, are also effective ways to build core strength, proper posture and balance, which help reduce the incidence of low back pain. Incorporating muscle strengthening exercises and stretching into people’s daily routines is of utmost importance, not just for the individual, but for the overall health of society.
By Natalia Sanchez
The Bone and Join Decade