The Natural Aging Process
Disc degeneration follows a predictable pattern: first, the disc experiences a decline in nutritional supply and cell function; second, the disc begins to lose its ability to absorb water and the fibers of the disc begin to be overloaded and to accumulate damage; third, this leads to a general loss of hydration with the nucleus (center of the disc) becoming more fibrous, so that it looks much the same as the annulus (outer region of the disc) which is simultaneously degrading in its mechanical strength, affecting the motion of the joint, pain can begin at this stage; fourth, routine stress and strain can take a toll on the structures of the spine, tears can form in the annulus, damage can occur to the disc endplates, the disc can bulge, the inner part of the disc can be extruded into the spinal cord region, the disc can begin to collapse, pain can begin or become worse at this stage.
A Global Problem
About 80% of the adults in the U.S. and 50% of European adults will be bothered by back pain at some point in their life. However, most back pain sufferers find no relief. In fact, low back pain (LBP) is a challenging condition to treat and one of the most common health problems in the United States.
Acute and chronic back pain has become a part of the US health landscape for a host of reasons including pervasiveness of obesity, smoking, inactivity, job related activities, and age related changes to the spine tissues.
Back pain is the leading cause of visits to orthopedic surgeons and the second leading cause of visits to general practitioners. In the United States, the estimated annual cost of back pain, including medical costs and lost
productivity, is between $50 and $100 billion. Estimated costs to those who are severely disabled from low back pain range from $30-70 billion annually.
Unfortunately, conventional medical care has been largely ineffective in treating back pain for most people, which is why most sufferers will try an average of six treatments during their quest to find relief.