Facts About Back Pain

In ABCs of Back Pain, What Doctors Are Saying by tomtomLeave a Comment

  • Each year, low back injuries account for 40 to 50% of all worker compensation costs.
  • 80% of all back injuries are lower-back related.
  • The total number of spine operations in the US alone has approached 500,000 annually.
  • The majority of all back surgeries are unsuccessful.
  • When disability payments are considered, the cost to American industry for low back pain is astronomical.
  • 8 out of 10 people will see a physician for back pain.
  • Back pain is one of the most frequent complaints during primary care office visits.
  • On any given day 6.5 million people are in bed because of back pain.
  • 5.4 million Americans are disabled by back pain annually.
  • 4 million of those disabled by back pain are permanently disabled.
  • Back pain is the most frequent cause of activity limitation under age 45.
  • 10% of low back pain episodes become chronic.
  • Increased incidence of back pain is associated with increasing age.
  • Back pain is the number one cause of work absence after colds and flu.
  • An estimated 93 million workdays are lost each year due to back pain. Back pain is the most expensive on-the-job-injury.
  • 34% to 44% of all settlement injury payments are for low back injuries.
  • Only 50% of injured workers ever return to work if out due to back pain for 12 months.
  • Spine surgery ranks third among all surgical procedures.
  • Some patients are more disabled after surgical treatment than before their injury.
  • Low back pain’s cost exceeds that of any other single health disorder.
  • Estimated costs for treatment of back pain may reach $100 billion annually.

Many procedures such as surgery, not only fail, but also more often than not, eventually leave patients with other problems to contend with, compromised discs, scar tissue, infections, and additional surgeries.

Did you know that an estimated 75 to 85 percent of people will experience some form of back pain during their lifetime? Most certainly low back pain can be quite debilitating and painful. Good news, most cases respond well with non-surgical treatment. However, it has been estimated that 50 percent of all patients who suffer from an episode of low back pain will have a recurrent episode within one year.

The costs associated with diagnostic procedures alone are estimated at $50 billion yearly. Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections. The personal costs are immeasurable from chronic pain alone, pain sometimes so great that it interferes with a healthy and satisfying lifestyle.

Also, it is recognized that most cases of back pain are mechanical in nature, and the pain is usually not caused by very serious conditions, such as cancer, fracture, infection, etc. The anatomy of the spine and the many conditions that negatively impact spinal health are complex.


On many occasions you first feel back pain just after you lift a heavy object, move suddenly, sit in one position for a long time, sustain an injury or have been in an accident. Prior to that moment in time, there was often a pre-existing weakness, or loss of tissue integrity in your spinal structures.

The specific structures in your back responsible for your pain are difficult to determine in many cases. Whether identified or not, there are several possible sources of low back pain:

Bulging or herniated discs

Injury or overuse of muscles, ligaments, facet joints, and the sacroiliac joints.

Muscle spasm (very tense muscles that remain contracted)

Degeneration of the discs

Poor alignment or fixations of the vertebrae



Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)

Small fractures to the spine from osteoporosis

Strain or tears to the muscles or ligaments supporting the back

Spinal curvatures (like scoliosis or kyphosis), which may be inherited and seen in children or teens

Feel free to comment and submit any questions you have about back pain and its treatment!

Dr. Jeffrey K. Tunick


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