Thousands and thousands of people annually seek medical care for back pain. For some, the pain is gone within 6 weeks. For others, it becomes chronic back pain.
Chronic back pain affects individuals in various ways. Most make repeated visits to physicians, seeking relief. They want to know what causes their chronic back pain. They want new tests. They want to try whatever treatment may be available.
Chronic back pain sufferers may report difficulty in performing normal daily activities. They may believe the pain is increasing. They may simply want someone to sympathize, and agree that it is not “all in your head” at all.
Although back pain is the main reason people visit orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons, and the second main reason they visit primary care physicians, an estimated 5 to 10 percent of those visitors will receive no cure. They will go from low back pain to chronic back pain.
Patients are frustrated because physicians do not cure back pain. Physicians are frustrated because they cannot cure low back pain. Many think they can do little to prevent occasional severe back pain from becoming chronic back pain.
If nothing is done, however, chronic back pain limitations can seriously impinge on daily activity.
A look at possible chronic back pain limitations reveals a long list. There are limitations placed by a physician, but there are many more limitations that patients place on themselves. They may include physical limitations, emotional limitations, or mental limitations. Of the many chronic back pain limitations we can discuss only 7 here.
1. Depression: One of the most common limitations of chronic back pain, depression affects everyone involved in the daily life of the sufferer. The type of depression experienced by sufferers of chronic back pain is not simply a matter of feeling sad or “down at the heels” for a day or so. “Major depression” and “clinical depression” are the terms used for this kind of depression.
When chronic back pain limitations include a major depression, the person feels emotionally miserable everyday for at least two weeks. He or she also may have unexplained crying spells; major appetite changes; fatigue, sleep problems; agitation; and thoughts of death or suicide. There may be little interest in activities that were normally enjoyable.
2. Social Activity: A second of the chronic back pain limitations reported is that of social activity. People suffering chronic back pain become reluctant to attend parties and other social functions. They may curtail recreational activities or outings with the family.
3. Work Time: Those who suffer chronic back pain are also more likely to take off more work time. Statistics show that back pain causes the loss of more than 83 million days of work time each year due to back pain.
4. Job Loss: Since it often means lost work time, another of chronic back pain limitations is job loss. Too many lost days, or poor performance due to chronic back pain, can result in replacement.
5. Work Ability: Chronic back pain is a leading cause of work limitations. Back pain limits workers’ ability to lift, carry, and perform other duties that are required. It places restrictions on workers, and narrows the job field for many people.
6. Low Pay: Chronic back pain limitations include financial limits for some. Those who are limited in work by chronic back pain earn, on average, only two-thirds the amount of those without back pain.
7. Housework: One of the largest limitations of chronic back pain appears to hit normal activities associated with housework, gardening, and lawn work. Patients with back pain that lasted more than 60 days often report they are no longer able to do any gardening, lawn work, or normal cleaning activities such as vacuuming, mopping floors, etc.
Clinically Proven Limitations
For the patient, it is difficult to believe that chronic back pain limitations are often unnecessary. They continue to believe that the pain has a cause that can be readily diagnosed, despite their physician’s repeated assurances to the contrary. They believe the physician can find a medical sure for their back pain if pressed often enough and hard enough. As for treatment, patients often believe that until the cure is found, the best treatment is bed rest and limited activity.
The result of such beliefs is that back pain that could initially be resolved with exercise becomes chronic back pain. Chronic back pain that might still be resolved if the patient were to exercise regularly gradually develops and produces chronic back pain limitations.
TIP: Back pain is very, very common in our society. Rather than let it lead to complications and limitations, you may want to ask your physician for gentle exercises that may resolve your back pain before it becomes chronic.