Low Back Pain is the Leading Cause of Disability Worldwide

A British journal "The Lancet" study reveals that more than 600 million people suffered from low back pain in 2020. Here is what you should know about this ailment and how to prevent it.

person with low back pain

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LatinAmerican Post | Erika Benitez

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Lumbago, or low back pain, is one of the most common and frequent pains in the field of health. According to a study published by "The Lancet Rheumatology" on the prevalence of this pathology, more than 600 million people suffered from it in 2020. And it is estimated that by the year 2050, around 800 million people will suffer from low back pain, an increase of 36.4% in the total number of cases.

The publication's authors define lumbago as pain or discomfort in the lower back. Depending on its intensity and causes, it can persist for several weeks. Generally, a high percentage of these pains have no concrete explanation. However, several practices, such as smoking and poor posture, are key risk factors for this ailment.

The study was conducted based on data from a worldwide observational epidemiological investigation on different pathologies between 1990 and 2020 to estimate the prevalence of low back pain in more than 200 countries. The "Global Burden of Disease" study revealed that low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is more frequent in women than in men in all age groups. Furthermore, eight out of ten people worldwide will suffer from it at least once in their lifetime.

This is mainly due to population growth, except in those regions where the aging of the population seems to be the main reason for the increase in the number of cases by the year 2050. The prevalence of low back pain increases with age, approximately at 85 years of age.

What are the "Bad Habits" that Hurt Our Back?

Anyone who has never felt pain in the lower back can consider themselves privileged. Although not much is said about it, it is more common than it seems. Low back pain or lumbago is primarily caused by bad postural habits, that is, bad posture in daily life or when sleeping. Added to this is a sedentary lifestyle, spending many hours working in front of the computer or exercising with poor technique, as well as smoking and obesity.

Other factors that affect the onset of low back pain are exposure to heavy lifting; improper bending; maintaining awkward postures at work or daily activities; being exposed to strong vibrations, and performing physically demanding tasks. Moreover, "low back pain forces more people to leave the workplace than any other chronic health condition," notes The Lancet Rheumatology.

Such data generated concern among specialists, who shared tips and habits you can acquire to understand and prevent this ailment.

How to Prevent Low Back Pain?

One of the main recommendations given by experts to avoid back pain is to maintain an active life with regular physical activity. A toned musculature is essential so that no area of your back (cervical, dorsal, or lumbar) suffers. This is confirmed by a study published last year by the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physiotherapy that sought to determine what type of exercise is best for reducing pain and disability in adults with chronic low back pain. According to the study, "Self-management strategies for low back pain include minimizing bed rest, staying active, and returning to work and usual activity as soon as possible."

Exercise is the best ally to reduce pain and disability in the short term. However, the exercise must be guided by experts and physical therapists who teach the correct technique to strengthen the back muscles without causing injury or more pain.

According to the research results, the most effective interventions to reduce low back pain were pilates, mind-body and basic exercises. For cases in which a disability is present, the best options are pilates, basic movements, and strength training. Pilates training has a great advantage: it works the whole body holistically, so every part is balanced. It is also recommended to stretch at the beginning and end of the day, to avoid pain and discomfort caused by poor posture, for example, in the workplace.

Read also: In The Americas, One Person Dies Every 34 Seconds From Smoking

Among the treatments usually used to treat back pain are physical therapies that apply dual treatments, alternating heat and cold. Likewise, manual therapy and, in some cases, the administration of analgesics are usually used. However, it is essential to remember that these recommendations do not replace the review of a specialist. If the pain is severe and affects your daily activities, you should go to the doctor to determine the best treatment.

Considering that low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, especially for older people, other more comprehensive actions are worth highlighting. The decade 2021-2030 was designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the “United Nations Decade for Healthy Aging” This proposal provides a solid platform to enhance and expand the scope of local, regional, and global health initiatives to develop and maintain older persons' functional capacity and well-being. All this through awareness campaigns and constant recommendations for the population to stay active and healthy. Healthy habits must be maintained from a young age to reach old age in good health and minimize ailments.

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