Hospital program highlights causes, cures for back pains

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hospital officials concentrated on low back pain during a Lunchand Learn program targeting pain management Tuesday at King’sDaughters Medical Center’s Crowley Room.

“(Low back pain) is far and away the most common type of chronicpain,” said Dr. Robin Nations, a staff physician.

Christi Mills, a physical therapist at KDMC Therapy and Fitness,said back pain is the number one pain complaint they receive,followed by knee pain and migraines.

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“Forty-two percent of Americans with back pain complain it hurtsthem every day,” she said.

Lower back pain constitutes more than 30 percent of workerscompensation, Nations said.

“Every time you take a step, a tremendous amount of pressure isplaced on your spine,” he said. “So, when it gets damaged there’s alot of pain involved.”

In addition, he said, nerve clusters for much of the body arecentered between vertebrae. In fact, he said, many people whocomplain of pain in their legs find that they actually have aspinal condition.

Bone spurs, disk displacements and arthritis are only a few ofthe many complications that can irritate those nerve clusters.

Back pain is typically conducted using “ladder treatment,” whereeach rung steps up the seriousness of the methods, he said.Treatment generally begins with over-the-counter pain medicationsbefore prescriptions are issued.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people can’t take them in doses thatwould help their problem” because of conflicting medications orother genetic predispositions, such as allergies, Nations said.

Injections of steroids and anesthetic to an inflamed area canoften provide some long-term relief, but frequently requires arepeat of the treatment at some point in the future.

“Any time you put a needle in someone’s spine there is a lot ofrisk,” he said. “Theoretically it’s safe, but in reality there isan element of risk.”

Back surgery is the final option, Nations said, but comes withits own complications.

Half of those treated with surgery eventually develop scarringin the area, he said. The scar tissue can also irritate nerves andmay result in further treatment, even though the initial problemmay be resolved.

“There are a lot of special treatments out there just for thosewho develop this condition,” Nations said.

The best way to prevent lower back injury is to be fit and notabuse it, he said. Losing weight and proper exercise are the bestforms of prevention.

“Unfortunately, there’s really not a lot we can do to preventit,” Nations said.

Mills said physical therapy can often provide some relief tothose with back pain. Therapists will collect a history of theinjury and study the person’s movement patterns to determine themost suitable form of treatment.

The majority of back pain, she said, builds up over the yearsand is not the result of a single incident or injury. Many times aperson will receive an injury and change their body movements to”guard” against causing future injury or aggravating an existinginjury. Those guarding movements can also cause injury by changingthe normal movement pattern of the body.

“There’s not one single magical cure that works for everyone,”Mills said. “Pain is your perception of it. No two people feel painthe same way.”