History of Back Pain

It is estimated 80% of people in US will seek medical attention for their back in their lifetime. Yearly, 15% of adults will seek medical attention for their back. The costs associated with treating low back pain and time lost from work is staggering.

The World Health Organization has deemed Neck & Low back pain as the 2nd most common reason for Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY) in developed countries. DALY is a measure of disease burden (number of years lost to illness, disability or death).


Interestingly, old medical books including orthopedic books talk very little of back pain. The majority of published info dealt with the effects of Tuberculosis of the Spine. For example Lewis Sayre wrote a textbook of Orthopedics in 1876, of the 471 pages in the book, there was no mention of low back pain!

Back PainIn 1915, another textbook of 406 pages was published by Bradford & Lovett. The book itself had 2 pages written regarding back ache. The backache section was included in the section on emotional and excitable and temperamental Patients.

A 3rd textbook published by Cochrane in 1926 devoted 24 pages to back ache (out of 500). This was the first textbook to discuss posture, muscle tears and sacro-iliac pain as possible causes.

Discovery of the disk as a source of pain and the discovery of disc herniations took place in the 1930’s thanks to Dr Schmorl in Germany and Dr’s Mixter & Barr here in the United States. Up until then, herniated discs were felt to be tumors.

As our knowledge base grew, the chances of a spinal medical condition being diagnosed increased

Disc Herniation 1930’s http://drpaulsaiz.com/lumbar-disc/
Spondylolisthesis 1950’s http://drpaulsaiz.com/what-is-a-laminectomy/
Spinal Stenosis 1950’s http://lascrucesortho.com/spinal-stenosis/


Prior to back ache being recognized as a viable pain source, Doctors simply ignored the problem. The osteopathy school of Doctors were the first to be interested in back disease (D.O) and believed spinal manipulation could cure deafness. The initial specialties interested in manipulation included Chiropractors and D.O. physicians.

Back Pain

Once MD’s recognized that the Spine could cause pain from the disc or disc herniations; surgeries became more common. The dawn of Spine Surgery took place in the 1930’s and has continued. http://drpaulsaiz.com/spine-surgery/

From being ignored to being the most common reason for missed work or disability; the Spine has matured as far as it’s importance in today’s medicine.

Source: Rang, Mercer: The Story of Orthopedics , Published 2000