Back Care Awareness Week (#backpainweek) runs from 8 to 12 October 2018 and is organised by BackCare, the charity for healthier backs. The annual campaign aims to raise awareness of the problems back pain can cause, as well as prevention and treatments. This year’s focus is on back pain in older people.
BackCare reports that back pain is one of the major disabling health conditions among adults aged 60 years or older. Many causes of lower back pain are age-related with physical and psychological changes.
Low back pain affects around one-third of the UK adult population each year, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Of these, around 20% (1 in 15 of the population) will consult their GP about back pain.
Recent reports by BackCare suggest that incidents of severe and chronic low back pain increase with age and older adults are more likely to develop lower back pain such as osteoporotic vertebral fractures, tumours, spinal infections and lumbar spinal stenosis.
Commenting on the campaign, Lucie Prothero, a solicitor in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches who specialises in back-related and elderly care cases, said: “This Back Care Awareness Week, we want to raise awareness of a rare but very serious back condition called Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES). Although not reserved for older adults, it is more prevalent among this age group due to the age-related changes that affect the spine.
“The Cauda Equina are the nerves located at the base of the spinal cord involved in lower limb sensation and pelvic function. CES is a neurological condition, usually arising from a slipped disc in the spine, which compresses these sensitive nerves. If the compression is not identified quickly and resolved (through surgery to remove the pressure), permanent damage can be caused leading to altered lower body sensation, problems with mobility, and bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction. The impact of these disabilities is often life-changing.
“Symptoms which should prompt urgent action include loss of sensation in the lower limbs, numbness in the buttocks, loss of genital sensation and bladder and bowel problems. Often referred to as ‘red flag’ symptoms, they should alert medical practitioners to the possibility of a serious neurological problem caused by spinal cord compression, rather than just progressive back pain.
“Back pain is a very common complaint in this country. Sadly, we see a number of cases where the additional warning signs of possible CES are missed in patients who have a history of back pain. This can lead to delayed diagnosis and surgery, which is required to urgently stop the spinal cord compression and prevent life changing outcomes, such as permanent loss of bladder, bowel and sexual function. For this reason, it is essential that if individuals start to develop any of the ‘red flag’ symptoms, they seek urgent medical advice and that their concerns are taken seriously.”