Dr. Dollinger: Chronic Back Pain

You may be immune to back pain by now. No, not the pain itself, but hearing about it from everyone around you. One person slept wrong, another carries stress in her shoulders, your colleague lifted something too heavy at work, your husband’s lower back has been stiff for weeks… in fact, over 70% of people develop back pain in their lives, and it costs an average of over $50 billion in lost productivity and work-related injuries.

To be clear, many forms of back pain are acute. “Chronic” refers to pain that has lasted for over 12 weeks. But either way, why does so much pain get carried in our backs? Some would say that stress goes to the weakest point in our body; others would argue that office jobs cause us to hunch over our desks and lose core muscle strength. While easing stress and paying attention to posture can certainly prevent pain from becoming chronic, there are several other factors at play.

When a patient visits my office with back pain, I always make sure to treat them as an individual rather than a classification. I ask about their relationships and jobs to discern stress levels, I look for indications of nerve, muscle, or skeletal issues, I assess how they walk, sit, stand, and move around the room, and I determine their exercise and eating habits. All of these things can play a role in acute and chronic back pain.

That’s why it’s so important to maintain a healthy overall lifestyle; because so many factors, over time, can begin to wear on your body – often showing up in the form of back pain.

It reminds me of the story of Willie Sutton, who was an infamous bank robber. When someone asked Willie why he robbed banks, he said, “because that’s where the money is!” When I assess the cause of pain, particularly chronic pain, I always ask about a patient’s history (any genetic dispositions, career hurdles, relationships, eating and exercise habits, etc.) because history is usually an indicator of the future. In other words, “that’s where the money is.”

So as you’ve probably figured out, people with back pain are a tough group of people to treat! But if you have suffered recently or for a long period of time and would like to discuss treatment options, I will work to find the best fit for you, as an individual. The problem is fairly common, and plenty of solutions are available.

If you’d like more information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Beth Dollinger, click here to find her contact information listed in our provider directory.

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