Cervical spine pain and back pain: a major problem today

Cervical spine pain photo.

Cervical Spine Pain is a Painful Condition

Cervical Spine Pain and Back Pain: A Major Problem

Cervical spine pain, or neck pain, and back pain are two of the most common reasons adults seek medical treatment each year.  About 50% to 80% of American adults will suffer from neck or back pain at some time in their lives.  The pain can feel like a dull ache or be sudden and sharp.  A study conducted by the University of Washington found that more U.S. health care dollars are spent on these problems than almost any other medical condition.  Only cancer, heart disease, and stroke consume more medical dollars.  The pain can also have an impact on the patient’s quality of life.

What are the Costs to Treat Back and Neck Pain?

While most causes of back or neck pain are not serious, testing, treatment, and lost productivity drive up the overall medical expenditures.  The cost of treating back pain is skyrocketing.  Brook I. Martin, MPH, a lead researcher in the University of Washington study, found that improvements in pain relief have not kept pace with the costs of treatment.  Testing, including the use of diagnostic imaging, has driven costs higher.  Overuse of narcotics for pain relief, injections of steroids, and surgery are also responsible for medical costs of neck and back pain accounting for more than $86 billion dollars per year.  University of North Carolina researchers have estimated the costs of treating low back pain at $100 billion.  In his studies Martin found that costs for pharmaceuticals for pain increased by 188% between 1997 and 2005.  Prescription narcotics are frequently being used to treat the pain.  Surgery is being used more often as a treatment.  Spinal fusion and disc replacement are becoming more commonplace.  The evidence of the benefits of surgery are controversial.  Pharmaceutical advertising and patient demands also contribute to the rise in surgery and prescription medications.

Why is Cervical Spine Pain and Back Pain so Prevalent Now?

There are many explanations for back and neck pain.  Some researchers believe that the rise of obesity is responsible for many cases of low back pain.  Other possible causes include arthritis, sprains and strains, fractures, herniated discs, and sitting too long at computers and desks.  Neck pain can be a result of poor posture,  long hours sitting at a computer or television, a computer monitor that is too high or too low, sleeping in an uncomfortable position, whiplash injuries, or injuries from contact sports.



Arthritis Today.  “Getting Back at Back Pain.”  www.arthritistoday.org.


Boyles, Salynn.  “$86 Billion Spent on Back, Neck Pain.”  www.webmd.com


O’Connor, Anahad.  “For Neck Pain, Chiropractic and Exercise Are Better Than Drugs.”  New York Times Well Blogs.   http:// well.blogs.nytimes.com.


Prevention Magazine.  “What’s Behind Your Back Pain?”  www.prevention.com



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