I retired last year after a long and happy career with the U.S. Forest Service. I've been surprised that my neck and back pain haven't gone away. I always assumed it was related to my job lifting and hauling wood products and heavy loads. Why do I still have back pain if I'm not working?
Many experts have made the assumption that most back pain is work-related. But studies do show that back pain is just as common among children; nonworking groups; and older, retired folks.
This knowledge has led doctors, researchers, and scientists to rethink their approach to back pain. Maybe back pain is inevitable. Preventing it may not be the best goal. Perhaps more time and money should be spent figuring out how to help people once they have neck or back pain.
Work-related causes simply aren't the only reason why back pain occurs. Even people up in their 90s and 100s report back pain -- and in about the same amount as younger adults.
It may make more sense to focus on strategies that encourage rational behavior and relieve pain once an episode of back or neck pain begins. Research will continue to look for ways to understand the underlying mechanisms of back pain. But unless and until some dramatic discovery is made, people of all ages need help with their back pain.
Jan Hartvigsen, DC, PhD, and Kaare Christensen, MD, PhD. Pain in the Back and Neck Are with Us Until the End. In Spine. April 15, 2008. Vol. 33. No. 8. Pp. 909-913.
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