ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture May Not Help Hot Flashes
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
Spot light on Dani Antman New Lionheart teacher
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Fruits and Veggies May Strengthen Bones
Hip Replacement Boosts Mobility at Any Age
CANCER
Mineral May Reduce High-Risk Bladder Disease
Papaya Could Be a Cancer Fighter
Antioxidants Pose No Melanoma Threat
CAREGIVING
More Than 60,000 Patients Risked Hepatitis Infections
Child's Food Allergies Take Toll on Family Plans
Reduce Suffering, Urge Heart Failure Patients and Caregivers
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
COSMETIC
Health Tip: After Liposuction
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
DIABETES
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
DIET, NUTRITION
Eating More Soy May Be Good For Your Lung Function
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
EPA Alerts Seniors to Carbon Monoxide Dangers
Staying Slim Is Good for the Environment
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
EYE CARE, VISION
Certain Diabetes Drugs May Pose Eye Risk
Sports Eye Injuries Leading Cause of Blindness in Youths
Eye Test Could Spot Diabetes Vision Trouble Early
FITNESS
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
Seniors Who Exercise Help Their Health
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
GENERAL HEALTH
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
Meat Additives May Be Dangerous for Kidney Patients
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
How Weight Loss Can Help the Heart
Soy Protein Doesn't Lower Cholesterol
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Time to Remind Teens About Sun Protection
Coconut Oil May Help Fight Childhood Pneumonia
Stomach Germ May Protect Against Asthma
MEN'S HEALTH
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
MENTAL HEALTH
Have a Goal in Life? You Might Live Longer
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
Reminiscing Helps Build Emotional Strength
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
SENIORS
Seniors Who Volunteer May Live Longer
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
For Older Walkers, Faster Is Better
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Mom and Baby Alike May Benefit From Exercise
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
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Chronic Low Back Pain Is on the Rise

By Carolyn Colwell
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 10 (HealthDay News) -- A North Carolina study finds that the rate of chronic low back pain has more than doubled in that state since the early 1990s -- a statistic the authors say might reflect what's happening in the country as a whole.

"We were actually surprised by what we found," said Dr. Timothy S. Carey, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina and the study's lead author.

He said his team knew that expenditures for medical services aimed at easing back pain have increased over the years. One theory for that rise has been that back pain sufferers are simply seeking more services.

But the researchers found another cause.

"A major reason for the increase in cost for back pain is not just that people are seeking a lot of care, but that there is a lot of back pain out there," Carey said. "We may need to rethink our way of dealing with this problem."

According to the study, 3.9 percent of North Carolina residents surveyed in 1992 said that they had debilitating, chronic back pain. That number rose to 10.2 percent by 2006, the researchers said.

Among people reporting ongoing, serious low back pain in 1992, about 73 percent said they had seen a physician, physical therapist or chiropractor at least once during the past year. In 2006, 84 percent said they had done so. However, the average number of health care visits remained the same, at just 19 a year.

The fraction of people with back pain who had ever had back surgery increased only slightly, from 22.3 percent in 1992 to 24.8 percent in 2006.

The findings were published in the Feb. 9 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The methodology of the study didn't enable researchers to ascertain the reasons for the increase in chronic lower back problems, but there are several possibilities, Carey said. One is the increase in obesity. Another is an increase in the prevalence of depression, which has been linked to back pain. Carey said that it's unclear whether back pain causes depression or whether people with pre-existing depression are more likely to develop depression.

What is clear is that chronic lower back problems remain a major public health problem.

"While no one dies from mechanical back pain, it is one of the most common reasons for work disability," Carey noted. The bill for lost productivity and back-related health care totals about $100 billion a year, he added. "In one sense, we're all paying for back pain. It ends up being reflected in our health insurance premiums and our Social Security disability costs," he said.

Carey said there appears to be a national trend toward increasing numbers of people with chronic lower back pain that causes impairment. The National Health Interview Survey showed that lower back pain and neck pain increased from 3.2 percent of the population in 1997 to 8.3 percent in 2006.

"There's not reason to believe that the population of North Carolina is that different from the rest of the U.S.," Carey said. "We have an ethnically diverse population and an age spectrum similar to the rest of the country." Because most chronic diseases tend to occur at a slightly higher rate in the southeastern U.S., he said, "it is slightly possible that the percentage [of chronic lower back pain] might be somewhat higher in the southeast, but I think the most important issue is this increase over time."

The findings also raise questions as to the effectiveness of current back pain treatments, Carey said. For example, another recent study he participated in showed that exercise remains underutilized as a means of treating chronic back and neck pain, though numerous studies show it can be effective.

Brook Martin, a University of Washington health services researcher who specializes in studying spinal services, agreed that a doubling of chronic back pain over 14 years raises serious issues about current treatment approaches.

"It makes us have to think about how to approach back pain," Martin said. "Chronic care models and clinical protocols and guidelines are not really the standard in treating back pain. This kind of highlights that this might be a real need."

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more on back pain.



SOURCES: Timothy S. Carey, M.D., M.P.H., professor of medicine and director, Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Brook Martin, M.P.H., health services researcher, Department of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle; Feb. 9, 2009, Archives of Internal Medicine.

Last Updated: Feb. 10, 2009

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