'Tis the season back pain gets worse

Stamford Plus magazine—December 24, 2011

Drs. Peter Moley and Alice Chen, both physiatrists in Greenwich, see a large increase in patients suffering from back pain between now and the end of the year. “For some, it starts when people try to lift a heavy package and hurt their backs,” says Dr. Chen, who lives in Weston and will be joining the Affiliated Physicians Office of Hospital for Special Surgery in Greenwich in early January.

Once someone has back pain -- and the most common area is the lower back -- there’s an 80 percent chance they will have back pain again, according to Dr. Moley, who lives in Darien and sees patients at the Affiliated Physicians Office in Greenwich and at Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.

Physiatrists are specialists in the nonsurgical treatment of muscle and joint conditions, as well as spinal and sports-related injuries. Drs. Chen and Moley say back pain is the most common reason for patient visits. Indeed, it’s the leading cause of disability in Americans under age 45. More than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 experience frequent back pain.

It often gets worse this time of year, and the doctors point to a number of reasons.

Stress is a major culprit. It tends to make back pain worse, according to Dr. Chen. “People think it’s a happy time of year, but it’s also very stressful,” she says.

“People are running around shopping, they’re trying to meet deadlines. People are stuck in traffic and they’re in their car longer, which may lead to back and neck pain. They’re walking in the mall for hours with heavy packages. It can be an emotional and sad time for people who have lost family members. All of these factors can lead to back pain or make a minor problem worse.”

Read the full story at StamfordPlus.com.

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