ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Maggots as Good as Gel in Leg Ulcer Treatments
New Insights Show Ginseng Fights Inflammation
Insight on Herbals Eludes Doctors, Patients Alike
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Safe Toys for Dogs
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Drinking Cuts Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
Pain More a Cause of Arthritis Than a Symptom
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
CANCER
Yoga Eases Sleep Problems Among Cancer Survivors
Poor Women Seem to Be Skipping Breast Cancer Drugs
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
Robots May Come to Aging Boomers' Rescue
Babies Born in High Pollen Months at Wheezing Risk
Injected Medication Errors a Major Problem
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
Periodontal Disease Impacts Whole Health
DIABETES
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Updated
Insulin Resistance Tied to Peripheral Artery Disease
DIET, NUTRITION
To Feel Better, Low-Fat Diet May Be Best
Eating Less May Slow Aging Process
Imagine Food Aromas That Prevent Overeating
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Walkable Neighborhoods Keep the Pounds Off
Seasons Arriving 2 Days Earlier, Study Says
City Kids Find the Breathin' Is Easier Elsewhere
EYE CARE, VISION
Thyroid Problems Boost Glaucoma Risk
Magnetic Pulses to Brain Improve Lazy Eye in Adults
Eye Care Checkups Tied to Insurance Status
FITNESS
Basketball Star Details His Struggle With Gout
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
Health Gains From Lowered Smoking Rates in Jeopardy
Green Spaces Boost the Body and the Mind
Man Dies of Brain Inflammation Caused by Deer Tick Virus
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
Drinking Your Way to Health? Perhaps Not
Fondness for Fish Keeps Japanese Hearts Healthy
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Should Your Child Be Seeing a Chiropractor?
MEN'S HEALTH
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
MENTAL HEALTH
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
Breast-Fed Baby May Mean Better Behaved Child
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
For a Healthier Retirement, Work a Little
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer Face Joint Issues
Heal Your Life® Tips for Living Well
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
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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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