Study: More than half of the people in the United States have back and leg pain

There are many Americans that Americans may not agree on, but many have one thing in common: chronic pain.

According to researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of adults in the US experience pain, with the back and legs being the most common causes.

Overall, investigators found that nearly 59% of American men and women were in pain.

“Pain is one of the most common complaints in a doctor’s office,” said Dr. Yili Huang, director of the pain management center at Northwell Health’s Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, NY

“It is often the body’s warning sign that something may be wrong. Pain is a symptom, not a disease. So whenever you experience new pain, it is important to seek medical advice to diagnose the cause and make sure it is not an emergency or urgent medical condition, “said Huang, who was not involved in the research.

Using the 2019 National Health Interview Survey data, NCHS researchers found that 39% of adults had back pain, 37% had hip, knee, or foot pain, and nearly a third had hand, arm, or shoulder pain in the past three Months. About one in ten suffered from a toothache.

The aim of the survey is not to draw conclusions from the data, but to provide the basis for further analyzes, according to the researchers.

“Given what we know about the short- and long-term effects of pain, timely, up-to-date national estimates of site-specific pain are an important step in understanding the pain burden in US adults,” said lead author Jacqueline Lucas, a health statistician / epidemiologist at NCHS in Hyattsville, Md.

The likelihood of experiencing pain was related to economy and age, according to the report released in an NCHS data letter on Thursday.

Those 65 and over, women, white adults, and those on incomes below the state poverty line – $ 25,750 for a family of four in 2019 – were most likely to have back pain and lower limb pain, as well as hand, arm, or shoulder pain, stated the report.

Those who experienced the least pain were 18–29 year olds, men, Asian adults, and those on incomes 200% of the federal poverty line or above.

Huang said chronic pain is often musculoskeletal and associated with degenerative wear, often due to strenuous work or aging.

“Women, especially postmenopausal women, have a higher incidence of musculoskeletal pain, possibly due to hormonal differences, although the relationship between hormones and lower back pain is not well understood,” said Huang.

Socio-economic factors and health are inherently linked, he added.

“It is well known that pain is associated with socio-economic status. Part of this is likely due to the fact that those with chronic back pain often have strenuous physical work, ”Huang said.

“Also, studies have shown strong associations with chronic back, leg, and arm pain, as well as low-educated patients and workers, likely due to the nature of the job,” Huang said.

Most chronic musculoskeletal pain is likely caused by degeneration and age. “Obesity can also put additional stress on the joints of the back and extremities, which can lead to increased degeneration,” he noted.

Most people develop chronic degenerative pain at some point in their life. “The key to treatment is focusing on quality of life and function, not just pain,” said Huang.

But that doesn’t mean just living with it.

“Activities that help us adapt to what is causing the pain can be helpful. This can be physiotherapy such as exercises or psychological therapy such as biofeedback or meditation or medication, ”said Huang.

“It often makes sense to find a doctor who is able to diagnose the cause of the pain and work with you to find safe treatment options,” Huang said.

More information

For more information on pain, see the US National Library of Medicine.

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