Entries in Back Pain (5)


What’s in Your Bag? Heavy Purses Can Cause Back, Neck Pain

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- That designer bag may look fabulous on your arm, but what is it doing to your back?  

Carrying bags that weigh more than five pounds can be hazardous to your health, doctors say.  That’s why ABC's Good Morning America decided to launch its very own “Purse Intervention,” weighing women’s purses across the country.

GMA ambushed women on the streets of New York and Los Angeles and found women are lugging around tons of extra weight with purses that weigh in the range of 5 to 10 pounds, and some even more.

But it’s not just what’s inside the bags that creates the weight.  With heavy buckles and grommets,  belts and more, trendy purses today have accessories of their own, which add to the load.

While it may seem minor, there are some fairly serious injuries heavy bag carrying can cause, including headaches, neck and upper back pain, even arm numbness and tingling if the nerves are being pinched, explains New York City chiropractor Dr. Randi Jaffee.

So what’s a girl to do?  Follow these tips from the experts to help lighten the load:

Two bags are better than one.  Always carry an extra bag with you.  That way if you have more to cart around, you can put it in this little bag and wear it on both shoulders.

Purses with long straps are better than short ones.  Wear the strap across your heart to better distribute the weight and give your shoulder a little break.

Backpacks and rolly bags are the best bet for your back.  The backpack gives you an equal distribution of weight on both shoulders, and the rolly bag takes the weight off your back altogether.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Five Medical Tests You May Not Need

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A routine visit to the doctor's office can bring up a laundry list of medical tests, all designed to screen for one serious disease or another.  But according to a new report from leading physician groups, a large number of medical tests and procedures billed as routine are largely unnecessary.

For many patients and doctors, it's easy to adopt the notion that if a little screening is good, more of it is better, "just to be sure" nothing is wrong.  But that approach is costly, both in terms of health care dollars spent and the potential risks of the screenings.

"There's no medical treatment or test that is 100 percent without risk," said Dr. Christine Cassel, president and chief executive officer of the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation.  "Things that you might think are routine actually should not be done because they expose patients to risk."

To help patients parse through the barrage of medical procedures, the ABIM Foundation and Consumer Reports have created the Choosing Wisely project, a campaign that asked nine physician groups to identify five tests or procedures in their fields that are over used or unnecessary.

Cassel said the project is designed to give patients as much information as doctors have about screening, as well as to rein in health care costs.

The full list was published on Wednesday, but here's a look at five common tests you may not need:

Cardiac Stress Test

Cardiac stress tests were once considered a staple of routine check-ups.  Also called the treadmill test or an exercise EKG, doctors often use it to determine if a patient has blocked arteries.  The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has long recommended that people at low risk for cardiovascular disease and with no symptoms of heart trouble don't need an annual stress test.  But a 2010 Consumer Reports survey of 8,000 people ages 40 to 60 found that 44 percent of low-risk people with no symptoms had been screened.

According to the American College of Cardiology, stress tests should only be performed on patients who have peripheral artery disease, diabetics over age 40 and people who have an increased risk of coronary artery disease.

Chest X-rays Before Minor Surgery

For many years, chest x-rays were another nuts-and-bolts part of hospital care.  But the test is going by the wayside.  The American College of Radiology said for most patients undergoing outpatient procedures, the tests are unnecessary. 

Some people should get a chest x-ray before going under the knife, such as those with a history of heart problems, lung disease or cancer.  For others with a normal physical exam, the ACR said the test leads to a change in patient care in only two percent of cases.

Imaging Tests for Lower Back Pain

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, lower back pain is the fifth most common reason for all visits to the doctor's office.  But unless a patient has certain red flags of a deeper physical problem, such as spinal abnormalities or neurological problems, the AAFP and the American College of Physicians say doctors shouldn't use MRIs, CT scans or other imaging to investigate lower back pain.

Frequent Colon Cancer Screenings

Colonoscopies, perhaps the most unloved cancer screening, are a necessary aspect of health care after age 50.  A recent study found that having precancerous growths spotted on colonoscopies removed cut the death rate from colon cancer by 53 percent. 

Most major medical groups recommend that people over 50 get a colonoscopy every 10 years.  However, the key is moderation.  According to the American Gastroenterological Association, most adults who are at an average risk of colon cancer and who get a clean bill of health from a colonoscopy don't need another one for the next decade -- good news for health care pocketbooks, since the test costs an average of $1,050.

Bone Density Scans

Osteoporosis becomes a real risk for people, particularly women, with increasing age.  The National Institutes of Health estimates that one in five women over age 50 has osteoporosis.  But patients may want to ask their doctors how often they need a bone density scan to screen for signs of the disease.

The American Academy of Family Physicians echoes the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in recommending that only women over age 65 get a bone mineral density test, called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, or a DEXA scan.  The AAFP also recommends the test for men age 70 and older, although the USPSTF said there is insufficient evidence to balance the risks and benefits of screening men for osteoporosis. 

The test costs more than $100, and unless a woman under age 65 has additional risk factors, such as smoking, an eating disorder or previous broken bones, doctors say the scan is unnecessary.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Common Causes of Low Back Pain

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Low back pain is one of the most disabling conditions in the U.S., and experts say that 80 percent of Americans will suffer from it at some point in their lives.  It's estimated that back pain costs more than $90 billion a year in lost productivity and work days.

While back pain can be debilitating for many who live with it, in most cases it can be treated non-surgically, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.  Exercise and staying fit are among the best treatments, back specialists say.  Lifting objects using the legs while holding objects away from the body is one of the best ways to prevent it.

There are numerous causes for low back pain, ranging from muscle strains to ordinary daily activities that people don't realize can lead to back problems.  ABC News talked to several experts about some of these lesser-known causes of lower back pain.


Overweight and obese adults are more likely to have disc degeneration in their lower back than normal-weight adults, according to a new study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Disc degeneration occurs when the discs of the spine start to break down, and it sometimes causes low back pain.  While disc degeneration is part of the normal aging process, researchers in China found that among 2,599 Chinese men and women, body mass index (BMI) was significantly higher in people with disc degeneration.

They also found that underweight participants were significantly less likely to have degenerative disc disease.

"When you look at their underweight group compared to other groups, it's a very compelling observation that there's a clear association between weight and disc degeneration," said Dr. Scott Boden, professor of orthopedic surgery and director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center in Atlanta.

Exactly what that association is, however, is harder to establish.  The authors believe weight gain may cause physical stress on the disc and, in addition, chronic inflammation brought on by the fat cells can lead to disc degeneration.


"Sitting is worse than standing.  Sitting for long periods of time puts pressure on your back, especially if you're not using core muscles to support your back," said Dr. Nick Shamie, associate professor of spine surgery at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif.

What's even worse is sitting and leaning forward to pick up something from the floor, which places the maximum amount of force on the lower back, he added.  Instead of leaning and reaching, Shamie explained the best way to pick something up is to get on the knees, pick it up and keep the object close to the body.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke recommends sitting in a chair with good lower back support.  If sitting for a long time, people should rest their feet on a low stool or stack of books.  But if possible, switch sitting positions and get up and walk around a bit throughout the day.

Mattress Type

Whether a soft mattress or a firm mattress is better for the back is up for debate.  There hasn't been a lot of research on it, but a 2003 study found that people who slept on medium-firm mattresses reported less back pain.

"If a bed is either too stiff or too soft, it's likely to cause back problems, but there is a lot of individual variation on that," said Dr. Richard Deyo, professor of family medicine at Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland.  "You need enough support so the spine is not sagging, but you don't want it so rigid that the spine is forced into an unnatural position."

High Heels

There's nothing to definitively link wearing high heels to the increased likelihood of developing back pain, but experts say it does make sense.

"Having the heel elevated changes the posture and probably forces the lower back into more of an extended position, and that can be painful over time," said Deyo.

But Shamie said wearing high heels is more likely to affect other parts of the body more than the back.

"High heels can put a lot of stress on your feet, but not as much on your lower back," he said.

Purses and Backpacks

"It makes perfect sense that if you have a heavy backpack, there's definitely a potential risk for injuring your lower back and other joints," said Shamie.

In general, he said, maximum weight should be no more than 10 to 15 percent of body weight.

Deyo, however, said the backpack issue has been controversial, and study findings have been conflicting.  Nonetheless, it's probably wise to get an extremely heavy load off the back if possible.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Yoga Helps Heal Chronic Lower Back Pain, Study Shows

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study finds that yoga can be beneficial in improving symptoms of chronic back pain patients.

Researchers split up 230 adults with chronic back pain into three groups: one group took 12 weekly yoga classes, another group took stretching exercise classes, and the last group was given a self-care book. After conducting telephone interviews, the researchers found that the yoga group reported better functional status than the self-care book group.

There was no difference in functional status between the yoga group and stretching exercise group.

The research backs what is already known – that physical activity and exercise is beneficial in chronic back pain patients.

The research was to be published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Back to School: Backpack Safety Tips

Comstock/Thinkstock(ROSEMONT, Ill.) -- Heavy backpacks are not only difficult to carry, but are harmful to a user’s back, according to orthopaedic surgeons at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

Backpack wearers should think twice before overloading their bags as nearly 28,000 people were treated in hospitals, doctors' offices, and emergency rooms in 2010 for backpack-related injuries like strains, sprains, dislocations and fractures, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The AAOS advises back-pack users to be mindful of these tips to help eliminate pain and discomfort from heavy bags:

• Always use both shoulder straps to keep the pack’s weight better distributed.
• Tighten the straps and use waist strap if provided.
• Remove or organize items if too heavy, placing the biggest items closest to the back.
• Lift properly and bend at the knees to pick up the backpack.
• Carry only necessary items.

Parents are also encouraged to educate their children on backpack-related pain:

• Encourage your child or teenager to be aware of backpack-related pain or discomfort like numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.
• Buy an appropriately sized backpack for the size of your child and watch for posture changes when they wear the backpack.
• Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle for them
• Talk to the school about lightening the load, keeping it10-15 percent or less of the child's bodyweight.
• Be sure the school allows students to stop at their lockers throughout the day to alleviate heaviness.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio