The leading cause of disability worldwide is …

If you’ve never experienced this pain, you’re in a very select group.

Leading cause of disability is …

If you’ve never experienced low back pain, you’re in a very privileged group. I’m not in that group and I can say that it’s only after I had experienced low back pain that I had true compassion for other sufferers.

The smallest of movements can be very painful, the recovery can be slow and effective relief can be difficult to find.  

Low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to Science Daily, affecting an estimated 540 million people at any one time.

And it’s becoming more widespread, according to a report in The Lancet.

Low back pain is getting worse on a global basis, largely because populations are ageing, says the research paper Low back pain: a major global challenge.

It affects all age groups and is generally associated with sedentary occupations, smoking, obesity and low socio-economic status, the research shows. And lifestyle changes and shifts towards even more sedentary work for many mean the risks will only increase.

Most people who have an episode of low back pain recover within six weeks, but two-thirds still have pain after three months. And recurrence is common. For a small number of people, it may even become persistent and disabling, affecting well-being, daily activities and social life.

The Lancet paper notes that most sufferers are not getting the most effective treatment. Recommended first-line treatments – such as advice to stay active and to exercise – are often overlooked. Instead, health professionals in some countries favour less effective treatments such as rest, opioids, spinal injections and even surgery, the report says.

So, if you experience low back pain, what should you do?

First, see a health professional to rule out the more serious causes of pain such as fracture, malignancy (cancer) and infection.

Physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths use manual and physical therapy to treat lower back pain. The treatments can include some form of spinal manipulation and massage, as well as advice to stay active and do specific exercises. This is consistent with the latest research.

Physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths are required by law to be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to practise in Australia. To be registered, a person must complete a minimum of four years’ study at a university in a degree that includes a focus on non-pharmacological (drug-based), non-surgical management of musculoskeletal conditions, including low back pain.

This group of health professionals can be consulted without the need for a referral from your GP and their services may be at least partially covered by private health insurance. The AHPRA website lists registered practitioners in your area.

The research says one thing to look out for when you see a practitioner is the number of treatments they recommend. Patients usually start with a short course of two to six treatments to see if they help. It shouldn’t take many treatments for a change in symptom pattern to become obvious, the research says.

The message to the public and to health professionals is clear, says the research. People with non-specific low back pain need to learn how to independently manage their pain while remaining active, staying at work and maintaining their social life as far as possible.

Physiotherapist Jason Lee, a regular columnist with YourLifeChoices, advocates warming up before surprising your body with a range of physical activities.

“Extra work around the house or garden often places the body into positions that it is not accustomed to,” he says. “If you usually spend your day sitting in front of a computer or in a sedentary posture, a sudden increase in loading and twisting can place stress and strain through the vertebrae, discs and ligaments around the spine.

“Housework or gardening is no different to exercise or sport. Stretch and warm up before these activities. This will prepare your spine for the work ahead and will help prevent injury.

“Before getting into the garden, try standing with your legs shoulder-width apart and gently lean side to side.  Gentle back arches can also be a great warm up exercise prior to getting into the garden.”

Have you suffered from low back pain? Did you stay active? What treatments have been effective?

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner or health professional.




    To make a comment, please register or login
    19th Jun 2018
    Crippled by lower back pain a couple of years ago. Some days took me 30 mins to get out of bed. Standard medical treatments did not help. Finally saw a kinesiologist on a friend
    's recommendation. This was the only thing which helped. He treats the whole body not just the target area. During initial investigations it was discovered that I had mild scoliosis, which I did not have when younger. Also a displaced vertebra pressing on the nerves in my spine. No longer need to take painkillers which I hated doing. helped with the pain a bit but sent me off the planet.
    19th Jun 2018
    For many years I have taken 2000 mg of fish oil capsules every morning & I am free of any pain from arthritis or anything that attacks joints.
    Yup I Know
    19th Jun 2018
    The leading cause cause of disabled worldwide is lack of food to eat. Those starving ppl are disabled
    19th Jun 2018
    I prefer to consult non-health professionals who happen to be more helpful than any of the so-called HP's

    20th Jun 2018
    I agree with the first recommendation to see a health professional - assuming that is a GP followed by a Specialist.

    Definitely get the above to do a MRI (as X-Rays, etc, do not reveal sufficient detail), before seeing any "Physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths" as the latter can well and truly stuff you up if the issues were not correctly diagnosed - remember most back pain is referred pain from the spine and the spine (and nerve structure) has a very delicate architecture which is often impossible to fix once it has been stupidly mis-handled.

    Also, Mersyndol (containing Codeine) works very quickly and well for back pain often fixing the issue within a couple of days, however most GPs don't like to prescribe it (the Govt recently changed the rules so you need a prescription) assuming you may get hooked on Codeine - but if you stop it in a few days or so there is no harm whatsoever. Other painkillers including NSAIDs do not work as well as they do not calm the nerves unlike the codeine.
    23rd Jun 2018
    While it was pleasing to read that while George apparently managed to get rid of back ache long-term using this drug it is important to know that Mersyndol is a pain killer, no more no less and offers no long term cure for anything at all.
    21st Jun 2018
    I saw a GP, had a X-ray and an MRI scan and was diagnosed with severe DDD (Degenerative disc disease) which means the discs in my spine are ageing causing nerves to be compressed and lots of low back pain radiating down my legs. I visited a range of HPs including a neurosurgeon who suggested a cortisone injection. I avoided the injection by simply looking up "relief for back pain" on the net & discovered a book titled "Treat Your Own Back" by Robin McKenzie. I followed the author's advice re the need for good posture, sitting with a lumber roll in a straight-backed chair & regularly do the simple exercises set out clearly. I try to avoid painkillers, instead applying a magnesium cream which gives very good relief, although temporary. Hoping readers might get some help if they follow my tips.

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