Back Pain Shows Gender Gap

Men and women report different causes of muscle spasms along spine

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THURSDAY, Aug. 19, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- There are major differences between men and women when it comes to the causes of acute back pain and muscle spasm, says a survey of 200 primary-care doctors who regularly treat back pain.

Close to half of doctors surveyed said male patients most often blamed their aching backs on job-related injuries. On the other hand, more than a third (37%) of doctors said women usually pointed to stresses and strains in the home -- activities such as child care, gardening or housework -- as the source of their back trouble.

"The source of acute low back pain is not always clear, but the majority of episodes result in muscle spasm," Dr. Gerard Malanga, director of sports, spine and orthopedic rehabilitation at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, N.J., said in a prepared statement.

"The good news, however, is that with the appropriate treatment, nearly 90 percent of patients will fully recover in about two months," Malanga said.

He noted that rest periods longer than two days have not been shown to be effective and may actually slow recovery from back pain. The quicker a person with back pain can get relief -- muscle relaxants are one form of treatment -- the sooner they can resume their normal activities.

In this survey, doctors reported that men complain of exercise and sports-related back pain injuries more often than women. Weight lifting, golf, basketball and football were the most common-sports related causes of back pain for men while running, tennis and weight lifting were the most for women.

The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive for McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has information about preventing and treating low back pain.

SOURCE: McNeil Consumer and Specialty Pharmaceuticals, news release, August 2004

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