Almost as common as the common cold, back pain is luckily not at all serious. I draw this conclusion not from 30 years of experience working with those who actually suffer with chronic back pain and neck pain, but after having read countless articles both online and off suggesting that most back pain goes away all by itself, usually within a few weeks. Often, the only treatment needed is a heating pad and an over-the-counter pain remedy, sometimes not even that. What a relief, and certainly reassuring. A few weeks sounds more like a minor inconvenience not the second most common cause of disability as documented by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The most recent study shows that 47.5 million US adults (21.8%) reported a disability in 2005*, an increase of 3.4 million from 1999. Arthritis or rheumatism continues to be the most common cause of disability (8.6 million), while back or spine problems (7.6 million), and heart trouble (3.0 million) round out the top three causes. One can only suppose that if arthritis were to develop in the spinal joints that the chances of a later disability would almost double, and that if one tried hard enough, long enough to limit the pain by avoiding those activities (including eventually ordinary walking) that aggravated the pain that one could look forward to future heart trouble. Because even though laying on the sofa watching the misfits on daytime talk shows come to blows is almost certain to get one's blood pumping, I find it doubtful that there is an actual cardio benefit. Combine all that with inevitable weight gain as months turn into years and we have just described a perfect storm leading toward skyrocketing scooter sales.

Among adults reporting a disability, so says the CDC, the most commonly identified limitations were difficulty climbing a flight of stairs (21.7 million, 10.0%) and walking 3 city blocks (22.5 million, 10.3%). That means that 1 in 10 adults have trouble walking a distance equal to walking from the parking lot to the back of a large store or through a mall. Perhaps this explains why handicapped parking spaces are always so near the door. Can you foresee a day when the trip from the sofa down the hallway to the bathroom seems like reaching the first base camp? If you can't, why not pop your head into the lobby of your corner rest home and ask a few of those folks if they ever thought they'd need a nursing assistant to help them with the toilet.  A better plan might be to reserve the handicapped spaces on the farthest end of the lot for those who need the exercise the most and save the spots up front for those who are in a hurry to get back to work.

Many of my readers who needed to hear this have long since clicked away but if by some slight chance you're still with me I'm trying to wake you up and teach you a valuable lesson. Don't you see that living with back pain is no different than living with chest pain? I'm willing to bet that most chest pain will go away all by itself, usually within a few weeks. A shocking statement? Yes, but it's true never-the-less (and if this sounds vaguely familiar re-read the second sentence of this article). How often could you lay on the sofa with the heating pad quietly waiting for your chest pain to subside before something bad happens? Ten times? Maybe 100 times? The point is that no one was just fine yesterday and needs to file for disability or be helped in the bathroom tomorrow. How many more warnings do you need? Watch out for that 101st time. Modern medical science has a new answer for those who suffer with chronic neck pain and back pain. Find out about non-surgical spinal decompression.

*Data were collected in June-September 2005 by U.S. Census Bureau using the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP); CDC and the U.S. Census Bureau analyzed the most recent data and released their findings in May 2009.

Prevalence and Most Common Causes of Disability Among Adults