Health Seminar and Lecture: Back Pain

Last week, JMSA held a Back Pain Health Seminar at Nippon Club led by Dr. Erich Anderer. The summary of the event can be found below!

Major points of the lecture:

Back pain is a very prevalent problem and is associated with health care costs of about $26 billion dollars per year. Although there are some more insidious causes of back pain which should be ruled out (cancer, infection), the majority of back pain is often without an identifiable cause. In most cases, the pain is limited to a few days and can be treated at home with over the counter anti-inflammatory medicine. It is important to return to your normal activities as soon as possible since this has been shown in studies to be associated with better overall recovery. Physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, and steroid injections have all been shown to work in select patients with back pain that does not respond to self-directed treatment.

In a minority of cases, surgery is required for one of two reasons: 1) nerve/spinal cord decompression and/or 2) instability.  There are a number of surgical techniques such as microdiskectomy and fusion which are very effective in well selected patients.

In order to avoid the need for surgery in the event you have back pain, doing things beneficial to your general health (eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, staying active) are also beneficial for spine health. Specific activities that work on core strength, such as yoga, pilates, and swimming, are also very effective in alleviating pain and ultimately helping you avoid the need for surgery.

General points to consider:

  • everyone gets back pain
  • most back pain is not serious
  • most back pain can be treated without seeing a doctor
  • most expensive treatments for back pain do not work
  • the best way to avoid back pain is to stay healthy

When to see a doctor:

  • back pain longer than one month
  • severe back pain with a significant known medical condition
  • back pain associated with trauma
  • pain shooting down the leg or arms
  • back pain with bowel/bladder disturbance (urgent!)