The Gallup Organization was founded in 1935, and since that time it has provided a valuable window into the thoughts and experiences of the American public. The company conducts public opinion polls that have a reputation for statistical accuracy, and as a result, when they publish a report on attitudes and actions regarding neck and back pain, we pay close attention. They recently released the results of such an inquiry that was aimed at discovering Americans’ preferences for treatment and their attitudes about the care that they receive for this most common ailment. In the course of their inquiry, they interviewed 5,377 adults to learn more about their experiences. One of the most notable takeaways of the study is a heightened awareness of the dangers of opioid medications, and a resultant preference to avoid them as a first line of treatment. Here is a summary of their overall conclusions:
Back and Neck Pain Statistics
Neck and back pain is an almost universal experience among adults in the United States. Roughly two thirds of Americans report having experienced pain that was significant enough to have sent them in search of medical care at some point during their life, and one in four have sought professional medical attention in the last year. Of those seeking care recently, the majority have suffered from lower back pain, with neck pain following closely behind and pain in the middle or upper back tying for third most common complaint. Fewer than four out of ten Americans say that they have never experienced neck or back pain bad enough to seek care.
When it comes to seeking care for neck or back pain, most Americans prefer to see a medical doctor who is able to prescribe medications or to offer a surgical option, and they also express a preference that the professional be a spine specialist rather than a general practitioner. When it comes to treatment, most explicitly want to avoid taking prescription pain medications as a first step, opting instead for other types of conservative treatments including massage, physical therapy, heat or cold, and over-the-counter medications. In choosing the professionals to provide treatment, many make their decisions based on whether their insurer will provide coverage.
For patients who prefer to use self-care or conservative approaches to treat their neck and back pain, the most popular options are heat (77%), yoga (72%), and cold packs (60%). Three out of four prefer to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Aleve or ibuprofen, and half take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to manage their pain. Many also opt for conservative treatments that are made available through medical professionals, including physical therapy and massage.
Back and neck pain specialists work hand-in-hand with patients to provide pain relief using treatment protocols that are in keeping with patients’ preferences and values. If you have been suffering from back or neck pain and would like to discuss your treatment options, contact our office today to set up a time for an appointment to come in and see us.