WTF Fun Fact 13049 – Missing Work for Back Pain

It’s very likely that you’ve experienced back pain (especially lower back pain) at some point in your life. And if a backache or spasm has make you call in sick, you might be interested to know that missing work for back pain is common. In fact, it’s the most common cause of missed work days.

Missing work for back pain is common

Not only is back pain the leading cause of missed work days, but according to Georgetown’s Health Policy Institute (cited below), 64% of workers with low back pain have missed at least one day of work in the past year due to some type of illness or injury. On the other hand, only 45% of those who do not suffer from back pain missed work for illness or injury.

The Health Policy Institute also reports that:
“Roughly 83 million days of work are lost per year due to back pain.
Back pain is a leading cause of work-loss days as well as work limitations.
Between 1998 and 2000 the number of back pain injuries that have involved time away from work has increased.

The number of days of work that people with back pain miss is also higher than those without back pain.

Finally, “adults with back pain spend almost 200 million days in bed a year.”

The commonness of back pain

If you’ve ever suffered from back pain, it’s hard to believe that some adults haven’t experienced it. After all, it can be caused by sports injuries just as much as it can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle. 8 out of 10 people will experience back pain in their life.

Back pain happens to all age and ethnic groups, however it it slightly more common in people aged 18 to 44 and in those whose annual income is less than $20,000. This may be because of the types of jobs people in these groups have, or their inability to seek proper help for back pain. Without some sort of intervention, pain can become chronic and even more debilitating.

Around 25% of people with low back pain are in fair to poor physical or mental health, so it’s associated with other issues as well.

Getting help for back pain is key

Over 4 million adults in the US said they have had trouble staying employed due to back pain and earnings among back pain sufferers are lower than among those without it. All of these statistics indicate that getting help for back pain is crucial to long-term wellbeing.

Since everyone’s pain is different, there’s no one common cure. Pain relievers, physical therapy, and targeted exercise are all options. The need for surgery is rare. And the good news is that a lot of back pain can be resolved by lifestyle modifications, which are free.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Chronic Back Pain” — Georgetown Health Policy Institute

WTF Fun Fact 12813 – Heartbreaks Hurt

Breaking up hurts – and sometimes that pain is physical in addition to emotional. Research has found that people who have experienced a painful breakup actually show brain activity similar to those who are in physical pain.

Why do heartbreaks hurt?

Researchers have compared the brain activity of those going through the emotional pain od a breakup alongside people who are in physical pain. The results showed that emotional and physical pain are processed in the same part of the brain.

Of course, pain is subjective, so pain research is hard to quantify, but it does explain why breakups can hurt so bad.

We’ve long known about the mind-body connection, but this is next-level.

Physiological connections

Research by author Meghan Laslocky (cited by Healthline, below) suggests that heartbreak hurts so much “because both the sympathetic and parasympathetic activation systems are triggered simultaneously.”

Healthline explains: “The parasympatheticsystem is the part of your nervous system that handles relaxed functions like digestion and saliva production. It slows the heart rate and breathing. The sympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, gets the body ready for action. It’s the “flight or fight” response that sends hormones rushing through the body to increase heart rate, and wake up your muscles. When both are turned on simultaneously, it stands to reason that the body would experience discomfort — possibly even chest pains.”

Don’t discount emotional pain

People have had heart attacks and have even died after experiencing heartbreak. But these are extreme cases.

Still, it would be unwise to discount the pain someone is going through after a breakup of the death of a loved one. Heartbreak can lead to changes in appetite, low motivation, weight loss gain, headaches, and stomach pain.

Even worse, unlike physical pain, medicine doesn’t help heartbreak. The only real remedy is time.  WTF fun facts

Source: “What Does Heartbreak Do to Your Health?” — Healthline

WTF Fun Fact 12455 – Meditation Relieves Pain

Pain is a sensitive topic (no pun intended). It’s subjective, for starters, so some people genuinely feel pain more (and pain affects them more) than others. When you’re in pain, it’s hard to conceive of something like meditation as a potential remedy. And to be fair, if you’ve never done it before, trying it for the first time minutes after you break your leg isn’t going to help.

Meditation has also become controversial since some people associate it with religion. But it doesn’t have to be Buddhist – most meditation is completely secular or customized to include elements of the practitioner’s own faith.

And here’s why it matters: we have an epidemic of painkiller use going on worldwide that has killed millions. Pharmaceutical companies are getting the blame, but that doesn’t do much good to people already experiencing addiction to opiates, for example. And recommending meditation to those people won’t replace receiving professional help at this point.

However, knowing that meditation can be a powerful tool can help set up those of us who have yet to experience serious acute or chronic pain for more success in managing it in the future. That doesn’t mean painkillers will become a thing of the past, but having a set of tools designed to draw on your own inner strength couldn’t hurt, right? (Again, no pun intended.)

So, as we pointed out in the photo, research from Wake Forest University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that meditation decreased the intensity of a subject’s pain by 40%. Pain also affects us in other ways that tend to make it worse by setting off a stress chain reaction in our bodies. Those overall feelings of unpleasantness were reduced by 57% in the group of meditators. Scans of their brains confirmed this, so researchers didn’t just take their word for it.

Even morphine didn’t have that kind of success in pain reduction.

But there are a few things worth keeping in mind:
– These were experienced meditators who had been trained to do it correctly (the technique used was called “focused attention”)
– While every subject experienced some pain reduction, it varied, with some only reporting an 11% reduction
– They did not later give these same people morphine; the researchers relied on known data about the pain reduction morphine provides
– While the study has been replicated, it was small, so more research needs to be done before we assume everyone can meditate their way through the pain

Despite these caveats, it’s pretty amazing to think about the power we have over our own bodies. –  WTF fun facts

Source: “Meditation instead of morphine — not so fast” — LA Times