I rarely see a female patient in my office who tells me that life before her spine troubles was slow-paced and boring. On the contrary, most of the women I know lead full, active and very busy lives. Perhaps you’re chasing toddlers around, or you’re a college student with a hectic school schedule. Maybe you’re a woman in the stage of life where retirement activities happily fill your time. No matter the age, I often wonder if some women delay treatment for spine issues because they’re so busy living and taking care of the people they care about – that they forget to take care of themselves.
Sound familiar? I’ve written about this phenomenon before and though it isn’t a scientific fact, it rings true for many of the patients I meet. What science does tell us is that the incidence of chronic pain (pain that is consistent and lasts three months or longer) tends to be higher among the female population. In fact, at least one report says that this gender pattern of chronic pain among women is even consistent across cultures and time. In addition, the persistence of pain and pain-related disability also tends to be higher in females. Besides gender, the likelihood of developing chronic pain is also associated with other risk factors including stress, depression, anxiety and a higher body mass index than normal.
Don’t worry, good news is coming your way and here it is: You do not need to (read: should not) just “live with” pain. Especially when you’re experiencing consistent pain associated with your spine – it’s a warning sign. That’s right! Pain in and of itself is not a clinical diagnosis. Rather, think of pain as a sort of “check engine” light like the one in your car. That light is your vehicle’s way of telling you that something is wrong and needs your attention. I know very few people who ignore that light. Those who do ignore it often pay the price with some sort of car malfunction in the future. What if more of us treated our bodies the way we do our car’s “check engine” light?
When it comes to spine health, I can tell you that we would avoid much more damage and catastrophe if we simply addressed back pain in its earlier stages. Your spine is an incredibly intricate structure and when one part of its health is failing, it can become a domino effect – placing undo stress on other parts of the spine with sometimes disastrous results. The even better news is that earlier treatment for spine conditions can often help avoid the need for surgery to correct the problem later on. Contrary to what some people think, there are very few cases of back pain that will require surgery to correct the underlying cause of it.
So if you or someone you care about is using the “just grin and bear it” approach to back pain that has lasted for several weeks or longer – encourage them to get help from a spine health expert. No one needs to make time for pain. Non-invasive and often simple treatments are available – helping you get back to living the busy life you love, sooner.