A central Iowa doctor who specializes in treating back pain says we’re entering the busy season for that common affliction. Doctor John Peppin, founder of the Iowa Pain Management Clinic in Des Moines, says wintertime can mean activities like snow shoveling and an indoors lifestyle that brings weight gain for some Iowans — two elements that can lead to back trouble.

Peppin says “Seventy-percent of Americans at some point in their life will have low back pain. Usually what we see for the chronic low back pain, which is more than six months and is consistent pain, is the age group from 45 to 65 and it can be a significant problem effecting ability to earn a living, quality of life, family life.” He says there are two basic kinds of back pain — persistent pain, which is continuous and typically is managed with around-the-clock medication — and breakthrough pain.

Peppin says breakthrough pain can happen because of activity, especially at this time of year. Standing while cooking, wrapping presents and shopping can all lead to breakthrough pain, which is severe and can last 30 to 60-minutes. He says chronic back pain is the fifth-ranking cause of hospital admissions in the U.S. and is responsible for direct health care expenditures of more than 20-billion dollars a year.

Peppin says the simple solutions to heading off back problems are well-known — and they’re often widely ignored. Weight loss and exercise are very important. He says you want to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles so they can support the spine and take the load off the lower back, while the more weight that’s gained, the more pressure and stress there is on the lower back which leads to pain.