One Small Piece in the Puzzle of Low Back PainLow back pain is puzzling. It accounts for many visits to doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and alternative care providers. Low back pain seems like a simple problem to patients, yet it can be very difficult to treat effectively. It often doesn't have a clear cause. And doctors find it almost impossible to predict who will get better and who will continue to have back problems.
Much research is done to piece together the puzzle of low back pain -- including this study. Researchers looked at a community of 17,000 people in Sweden over three years. In that time, it found that about five percent of the population saw a health professional for a new episode of low back pain.
The researchers noted a number of facts about the course of low back pain among these patients. Many had back pain in the past. Patients' pain and disability levels usually improved in the first three months, but after that there was not much improvement. This seemed to be true no matter what kind of health care patients got -- traditional medicine, massage, chiropractic, or alternative treatment. Notably, about 70 percent of the patients took no days off from work for their back pain in the entire three years. The researchers didn't find anything that predicted who recovered and who continued to have problems.
These are all interesting facts. But it will take much more study before medical professionals can put together the entire puzzle of low back pain.
Eva VingÃ¥rd, MD, et al. Seeking Care for Low Back Pain in the General Population. A Two-Year Follow-up Study: Results from the MUSIC-NorrtÃ¤lje Study. In Spine. October 1, 2002. Vol. 27. No. 19. Pp. 2159-2165.
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