Low back pain is pain between the bottom of the ribs to the area just underneath the buttocks. It may or may not be accompanied by leg pain, or sciatica. In about 10% of cases, doctors can diagnose a specific reason for the pain. The other 90% of the low back pain cases are known as non-specific low back pain, because doctors can't definitively say what causes it.
It's estimated that around 15% of adults experience low back pain at any given moment. Nearly everyone (60%-85%) will have low back pain sometime in their life.
For the United States, low back pain is collectively one of the most expensive disorders that medical doctors treat. Costs run in the billions of dollars each year. Most of the expense is due to lost work days, but the cost of diagnosis and treatment are also significant factors.
Often, a person with low back pain will have pain in other areas of their body as well. The patient might have headaches, pain in the legs or arms, or other places. This type of pain is called widespread pain. Generally, back pain patients with widespread pain do worse than those whose low back pain is confined to the area described above. For these people, treatment may emphasize the management of pain, including pain reduction, preventing disability that comes with a chronic condition, and getting back into full participation in work and play.
Experts say that most of the time, lower back pain goes away on its own. But a 2005 study from Toronto Western Hospital Research sheds light on this clinical fact by revealing the tendency of low back pain episodes to recur. The study showed that while most lower back pain is mild in severity, less than one-third of the cases resolve within a year. The study revealed that 20% of all lower back pain cases comes back within 6 months. Older adults in the study had more persistent and recurring low back pain than their younger counterparts; there was a total of 1110 participants in the study.
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