Q: Why is back pain so prevalent and can it be avoided?
A: Back pain is very prevalent. Most people will have at least one episode of intense back or neck pain during their lives. There are so many moving parts in the spine -- including discs and joints -- that there are many potential pain generators. Your spine also sees the stress of the majority of your body weight and is involved in most activities of daily living. As a result, it sees a lot of wear and tear.
Luckily there are some things that can be done to minimize your chances of developing pain. Like most things in medicine, healthy living tends to help. Working on core strengthening and flexibility is one way to help prevent issues. Smoking also contributes to discogenic back pain. If you are overweight, losing some weight can be helpful. Lastly, if you are going to be doing some heavy lifting or repetitive activities, practice good ergonomics.
The good news is that most spine conditions get better with conservative care including specialized spine physical therapy, medications and sometimes injections. When symptoms persist, surgery is sometimes recommended to reduce pain and preserve functionality.
For the cases in which the symptoms persist, surgery is sometimes indicated. The goal of surgery is to eliminate the pain while preserving functionality. When possible, preserving motion is ideal. Our primary goal is to minimize pain and help patients get back to their original level of activity.
Dr. Benjamin Geddes is an adult and pediatric spine surgeon with Center for Sports Medicine & Orthopeadics and is a member of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.