Sam Bauman: More on back pain and some experimenting



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Last week’s column ended with a promise to explore various ways to ease your and America’s back pain problems, which are considerable. But first basic facts from the Internet:

“National or state-level estimates on trends in the prevalence of chronic low back pain (LBP) are lacking. The objective of a study was to determine whether the prevalence of chronic LBP, and the demographic, health-related, and care-seeking characteristics of individuals with the condition have changed over the past 14 years.

“A cross-sectional, telephone survey of a representative sample of North Carolina households was conducted in 1992 and repeated in 2006; 4,437 households were contacted in 1992 and 5,357 households were contacted in 2006 to identify non-institutionalized, adults 21 years and older with chronic, impairing three months that limits daily activities.

“The prevalence of chronic, impairing LBP rose significantly over the 14-year interval, from 3.9 percent in 1992 to 10.2 percent in 2006. Increases were seen for all adult age strata, in males and females, and in white and black races. Symptom severity and general health were similar for both years. The proportion of individuals who sought care from a health care provider in the past year increased from 73.1 percent to 84 percent, while a mean number of visits to all providers were similar.

“The prevalence of chronic, impairing LBP has risen significantly, with continuing high levels of disability and care utilization. A substantial portion of the rise in LBP care costs over the past two decades may be related to this rising prevalence.” To read more go here:

That’s some of the data available about chronic back pain. Meanwhile, I received an email from Carson’s Rich Gunn about his life with or without back pain. It follows, first quoting last week’s Appeal back pain column:

“Degenerative changes; as you age the gel-like discs that cushion the bones of the spine wear and allow bones to rub against one another, causing osteoarthritis. Such degeneration is unavoidable and that almost all of us over 60 have signs of wear and tear.

Here’s Rich:

“When talking about the degeneration of spinal discs or the meniscus, I think it’s important to keep in mind that the human body is not a machine, it’s a regenerative organism that only degenerates when connective tissues are deprived of the essential nutrients they need to maintain necessary strength and flexibility.

“The least well understood of these nutrients is Vitamin C, which is a cofactor in the synthesis of a protein called collagen that enables our skeletal muscles, bones, cartilage, spinal discs, membranes, tendons, ligaments and cartilage, not to mention all of our blood vessels, to bear up under the pressure of gravity and body motion.

“Collagen represents a third of all the body’s proteins, and to synthesize one molecule of it necessitates the destruction of one molecule of Vitamin C, so the bigger you are and the more damage you do to your connective tissues through exercise or trauma, the more Vitamin C you will need to consume.

“The recommended dietary allowance of 60 milligrams is based on what’s needed to prevent scurvy, not the prevention of back or joint pain, so it’s nowhere near enough to do that job.

“Being water-soluble, Vitamin C is being constantly diluted as it passes through our bodies, so it’s necessary to take it more than once a day. I take one gram’s worth every eight hours, which has worked quite well for me over the years. I’ve never experienced back or joint pain of any kind, and I credit that more to smart eating than dumb luck.”

Anecdotal, to be sure but worth thinking about.

Meanwhile, I was talking about back pain with my friend Patti. I said that I was looking forward to the recreational use of marijuana as a possible relief from back pain.

“Why wait?” she said. “You could try medical pot with a note from your doctor.” So my doctor gave me a note for medical pot. I picked up some of the nonsmoking kind — no desire to puff as I haven’t smoked anything since my days at Playboy editorial offices in Chicago. So back pain in place, I tried some medical pot. Just a minimum. I was amazed. My back pain eased and it didn’t come back for a couple of days. Did this really mean that pot (or grass, or weed, or Mary Jane or whatever you called it) was a treatment for back pain?

I don’t know. The back pain returned in a couple of days and more medical pot didn’t seem to help. But a classic medical study seems called for. Such studies are rare as the Food and Drug Administration seems leery of letting anyone make studies using a Level One drug.

Cannabis is mostly used recreationally or as a medicinal drug. In 2013, between 128 and 232 million people used cannabis (2.7 percent to 4.9 percent of the global population between the ages of 15 and 65). In 2015, 43 percent of Americans had used cannabis, which increased to 51 percent in 2016. About 12 percent have used it in the past year, and 7.3 percent have used it in the past month. This makes it the most commonly used illegal drug both in the world and the United States.

Seems that it might be a good idea to talk to pot users about lower back pain. We may have been sitting on a back pain ease before our very eyes.

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.


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