Vertos Medical Blog

Could This Under-Diagnosed Condition Be the Cause of Your Chronic Low Back Pain?

Published December 5, 2022

If you experience chronic low back pain (CLBP), you may have questions: What’s causing it? What do my symptoms mean? Will my condition worsen as I age? How can I find relief?

You’re looking for answers—and you’re not alone. Unlike other debilitating conditions, researchers have never truly known how many people suffer from CLBP. Until recently, many patients have been left in the dark about the cause of their pain or their options for treatment.

As revealed in the Mobility Matters: Landmark Survey on Chronic Low Back Pain in America, created in partnership with The Harris Poll, there are many misconceptions about chronic low back pain, including its potential causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Before this survey, we didn’t know which patients were suffering the most, or how the CLBP experience may change through life’s decades. In this blog, we’ll share the results of the survey, explore a common, yet often undiagnosed, cause of CLBP, and discuss some of the treatment options available for patients seeking relief.

According to Mobility Matters: Landmark survey on chronic low back pain in America, an infographic. More than 72 million US adults report experiencing CLBP. 27 millions have never been told exactly what's causing their CLBP. More than 8 in 10 wish there were better treatment options for CLBP. Silhouette image of a woman with shopping cart syndrome leaning on a shopping cart to alleviate back pain symptoms. Silhouette image of a man sitting down on a chair to alleviate his back pain.

See more insights from the survey here >

Introducing the Mobility Index

As we grow older, it can be difficult to assess which mobility challenges are a normal part of aging, and which ones may indicate a condition such as CLBP. The Mobility Index, developed as part of the national Know Your Back Story campaign, was designed to demonstrate how older adults could be moving through life if chronic low back or leg pain was not a limiting factor.

Through the Decades: How Does Your Mobility Measure Up?

Poll results show that with age, CLBP patients experience significantly greater challenges performing physical tasks and making it through the day without pain than their peers who do not suffer from low back pain.

Infographic - Mobility Index through the decades. Comparing pain and mobility differences between people with and without chronic low back pain (CLBP) in their 50s. Stand for 30+ minutes: 76% without CLBP, 33% with CLBP. Walk 1+mile: 75% without CLBP, 36% with CLBP. Dance through entire song: 77% without CLBP, 41% with CLBP. Often make it through day without any physical pain: 70% without CLBP, 30% with CLBP. Infographic - Mobility Index through the decades. Comparing pain and mobility differences between people with and without chronic low back pain (CLBP) in their 60s. Stand for 30+ minutes: 77% without CLBP, 35% with CLBP. Jogging: 50% without CLBP, 13% with CLBP. Satisfied with how well my body gets around: 80% without CLBP, 45% with CLBP. Often make it through day without any physical pain: 73% without CLBP, 31% with CLBP.Infographic - Mobility Index through the decades. Comparing pain and mobility differences between people with and without chronic low back pain (CLBP) 65 and older. Going up and down stairs: 79% without CLBP, 44% with CLBP. Walk 1+ mile: 70% without CLBP, 35% with CLBP. Satisfied with how well my body gets around: 81% without CLBP, 42% with CLBP. Often make it through day without any physical pain: 76% without CLBP, 31% with CLBP.Infographic - Mobility Index through the decades. Comparing pain and mobility differences between people with and without chronic low back pain (CLBP) in their 70s. Stand for 30+ minutes: 73% without CLBP, 36% with CLBP. Go up and down stairs: 80% without CLBP, 46% with CLBP. Gt up and down from floor: 66% without CLBP, 28% with CLBP. Often make it through day without any physical pain: 77% without CLBP, 31% with CLBP.

What Could You Do With Fewer Limitations?

If you’re suffering from CLBP, you’re already familiar with the limits your pain can put on daily tasks and activities. But do you know just how much you could be doing without these obstacles?

Image: A physician in a white doctor's coat smiles and reassures an elderly patient, a smiling woman wearing a sweater. Text: Standing for 30+ Minutes. Among adults who don't suffer from CLBP, nearly 3 in 4 individuals aged 50-79 are able to easily stand for 30 minutes or longer. In contrast, the number of CLBP patients in the same age range who can do the same is just over 3 in 10.

Mobility In Your 50s

For CLBP patients in their 50s, having difficulty doing physical activities that were once a regular part of life, such as walking a mile or dancing for the duration of one song, can feel especially discouraging.

Image: Silhouettes of people walking lengthening distances on a chart. CLBP patients in their 50s that can easily walk for one mile or more, only 36%. Can easily dance through an entire song, only 41%. 50-somethings without CLBP that report being able to do these activities with ease, over 75%.

Mobility In Your 60s

For people in their 60s, there are some activities like—jogging—that aren’t for everyone. Even among individuals without CLBP, only 50% of respondents in their 60s reported the ability to jog with ease. However, for patients suffering with chronic low back pain, this number plummets to only 13%.

2 circle graphs. One shows 50% complete, the other only shows 13% complete.

And whether jogging, walking, or doing anything else, fewer than half of CLBP patients in their 60s say they feel satisfied with how their body gets around. In contrast, 80% of 60-somethings without CLBP are satisfied with their mobility.

2 circle graphs. One shows 80% complete, the other only shows 45% complete.

Image: Elderly woman holding coffee mug, with glasses on her head, looking in the distance. Text: 7 in 10 patients between 50 and 79 say they are often unable to make it through the day without pain. Graph description: 10 body silhouettes, 7 out of 10 are colored in blue. 3 remain grey. 2nd graph description: 10 body silhouettes, 3 out of 10 are colored in navy blue. 7 remain grey. Text: Among their peers, this number drops to 3 in 10.

Mobility In Your 70s

Did you know that 80% of people in their 70s without CLBP are able to easily go up and down the stairs? If you are a CLBP sufferer in your 70s, you may have a much different experience, as fewer than half of CLBP patients in their 70s reported the same mobility using stairs.

Image: Elderly Hispanic couple walking down a staircase, hands on the banister, both smiling. Text: I can go up and down the stairs with ease. Graph: 80% shows non-CLBP, 45% shows CLBP.

Getting up from the floor is another activity that impacts CLBP sufferers much more than their peers who don’t experience chronic pain. While 66% of 70-somethings without CLBP reported ease in getting up or down from the floor, only 28% of those with CLBP were able to say the same.

Image: White man in his 60s, sitting on the floor, receiving a helping hand, smiling and getting pulled up. Text: I can get up or down from the floor with ease. Non-CLBP 66%. CLBP 28%.

Could An Enlarged Ligament Be Causing Your Low Back Pain?

Image: White man in his 60s, sitting, hunched over in pain, with his hand on his lower back. Text: 84% of people suffering from CLBP report moderate or severe pain

One cause of low back pain that often goes undiagnosed is an enlarged ligament, which can contribute to lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS), a common, yet overlooked, condition that millions of people may be unaware of.

Image: White woman in her 60s, sitting, hunched over in pain, with her hand on her lower back. Text: 78% of adults with chronic low back pain don't know that an enlarged ligament could be the cause.

What Is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is a common, yet overlooked, condition that is prevalent in nearly 20% of patients over the age of 60.

LSS is often caused by an enlarged ligament in the back, which compresses the space in the spinal canal and puts pressure on the nerves in the lower back. This pressure around the spinal cord can cause pain, numbness, heaviness, or tingling in the low back, legs, and buttocks.

How CLBP Impacts Daily Life

Unsurprisingly, the chronic low back pain that may be caused by LSS has negative impacts on nearly every aspect of a patient’s life, most commonly in their abilities to exercise, stand or walk for long periods of time, and get a good night’s sleep.

US adults say CLBP has interfered with their ability to complete every day tasks: Exercising 63%, Standing 63%, Walking 58%, Getting a good night's sleep 55%

Low Back Pain & LSS Treatments

Due to its minimally invasive nature and long-lasting durability, many interventional pain management doctors are making the move to mild® as an alternative to epidural steroid injections (ESIs), which may only work in the short-term and may require repeat injections to maintain relief.

More invasive courses of treatment can include procedures such as spacer implants or open surgery, though nearly 80% of CLBP sufferers have concerns about undergoing surgery.

The mild® Procedure, or minimally invasive lumbar decompression, is considered a gold standard of care among treatments for low back pain. By addressing the root cause of pain, the enlarged ligament, mild® has helped 88% of patients avoid back surgery for at least 5 years while providing lasting relief.

For Many Sufferers of CLBP, It Doesn’t Just Go Away On Its Own.

89% of patients have been experiencing CLBP for1 year or more, with more than half (57%) experiencing it for more than 5 years. Circle graphs: 89% 1 year or more vs 57% more than 5 years.

If you’re looking for answers about your chronic low back pain, a spine health doctor can help you determine the cause and provide you with treatment options that fit your needs.

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