Low Back Pain Facts and Figures

Results of the Chronic Back Pain in America 2015 Patient Survey

Written by Stewart G. Eidelson, MD

The number of people self-reporting chronic low back and/or sacral (ie, lumbosacral) pain represented the majority of the 606 people who participated in the Chronic Back Pain in America 2015 survey. A total of 94% (n=546) patients indicated they had been living with chronic low back/sacral pain for at least 3 months. Here, SpineUniverse summarizes the symptoms, diagnoses, treatments, and other information of interest to our readers.

Table 1 (below) summarizes the symptoms experienced by these patients. If you have chronic lumbar and/or sacral pain, you understand that pain is not the only symptom. The results of the survey support that fact.

Examined for sacroiliac joint dysfunction?
Regarding sacroiliac joint (SI joint) pain and related symptoms, survey takers were asked if their doctor examined them for SI joint dysfunction. Of 309 responders, 52% (n=160) chose “Yes,” 18% (n=55) chose “No,” and 30% (n=94) indicated they did not know.

Table 2 (below) summarizes the types of activities that were limited by low back and/or sacral pain and symptoms. The total number of people responding to this section of questions was 582. The responses support the fact that low back and/or sacral pain and symptoms can limit may different types of activities.

Table 3 (below) summarizes the variety of diagnoses self-reported. Of course, it is important to understand that some patients may have received more than one diagnosis—or cause of their chronic low back and/or sacral pain. There were 576 responders to this question.

Table 4 (below) offers perspective into the types of physicians who diagnose back pain. There were 576 responders to this question.

Nonoperative Treatments
Table 5 (below) reflects the feedback from 576 participants. Here they report on the types of nonsurgical treatments used to help relieve low back and/or sacral pain/symptoms and which ones they found to be ineffective.

Who prescribed pain medications?
The majority of physicians who prescribed pain medications were pain management specialists (41%, n=174) and primary care physicians (38%, n=163). Orthopaedic surgeons (6%, n=27), neurosurgeons (5%, n=22), and physiatrists (4%, n=18) were other physician categories that prescribed pain drugs.

Surgeon Recommended Surgery to Treat Low Back/Sacral Pain
Approximately 51% (n=293 of a total of 576) reported, “ever having low back/sacral surgery,” while 44% (n=257) indicated their doctor recommended surgery to treat chronic back pain. About 37% (n=96 of 257) indicated they underwent another lumbar and/or sacral surgery to revise a previous procedure.

Of the 257 survey participants, 42% (n=108) indicated a neurosurgeon recommended surgery, whereas 35% (n=89) selected orthopaedic spine surgeon, and 10% (n=26) chose an orthopaedic surgeon. A smaller number (11%, n=27) chose pain management specialist and ~2% (n=7) chose “other.”

Table 6 (below) summarizes the types of lumbar and/or sacral spine surgery surgeons recommended. A total of 257 patients responded to the type of surgical procedure recommended, while 207 chose a surgical approach.

Table 7 (below) shows the percentage and number of people who decided to obtain a second surgical opinion out of 257 responders.

Table 8 (below) highlights the type of physician chosen for a second opinion and if that doctor recommended the same procedure as the first.

Returning to the 257 survey respondents seeking a surgeon’s opinion, 10% (n=26) had their surgery performed by the first surgeon, 62% (n=160) by the second opinion surgeon, and 28% (n=71) decided against surgery.

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