Recent study on back pain

October 27, 2011 3:01:59 PM PDT
Back pain is one of the most common ailments that sideline us, and the costs to treat it are skyrocketing. The search for treatments involves a high tech video game that patients may someday be trying.

It is often difficult to treat because there is not one blanket approach that works for everyone one. If you have it, there are some things to try, and some new things researchers are trying. It is characterized by how long it lasts. It can be acute, sub acute or chronic. A recent study found that each type can differ in location and intensity, but the differences are few. Treatments available, however, are many.

Physical therapy can help in many cases. Steroid injections can help others. Massage therapy has also been found to be helpful sometimes, and this week, another study found doing yoga was helpful for moderate pain.

Researchers say that could be because of the stretching and strengthening of muscles. Nurses who spend a lot of time lifting patients are one big at-risk population.

"We've had, different nurses have had strained backs, have pulled muscles, you know, and have been off for a couple of days because they've pulled their backs doing something," said Barb Porterfield, RN at the University of Ohio Medical Center.

Because of that, researchers at Ohio State University are now testing this hi-tech model, which will help them predict who is a risk for back problems and how best to treat them.

"We'll have them basically play a video game with their backs and depending on how they perform on that, that tells us whether they have a deficit or not," said Bill Marras, Ph. D at Ohio State's Center for Personalized Health Care.

Important research could cut out on unnecessary and costly treatments. The cost of treating back pain is skyrocketing. Many patients get drugs, expensive tests or even surgeries they may not necessarily need.

Medicare payments for pain pills are up 423 percent and surgeries are more than 200 percent. Researchers say if these models can predict back problems early enough, they can try different approaches, like exercise to prevent injury, or physical therapy to treat it, and that may be just the beginning.

But for all of us, learning prevention and back care can be an ongoing strategy, particularly for those at risk.

"It's an entire component. So, education, physical aspects, you know, cognitive aspects, they've got to think about what they're doing," said Jimmy Onate, Ph. D at Ohio State's Center for Personalized Health Care.

There was another study on back pain released this week. It was a preliminary study, but it looked at back pain in adolescents. The findings are that the back pain is usually not diagnosable and resolves itself spontaneously. The analysis also advised for minimal imaging tests.