According to a new study, most doctors ignore advice for treating back pain and choose to put their patients through expensive and often unnecessary treatments that may or may not work. Additionally, doctors often put patients at risk by exposing them to addictive pain medications.
The author of the study, Dr. Bruce Landon; Harvard Medical School’s professor of health care policy has recommended that doctors need to keep in mind that back pain is not usually a condition that lasts a life time. Often, patients can recover within just a couple of months, so sending them for expensive texts that include MRIs, CT scans, and encouraging patients to see specialists is usually not necessary.
For the study, researchers looked at data from the years of 1999 to 2000, as well as 2009 to 2010. They discovered that narcotic pain medication use has gone up from 19.3 to 29.1 percent. Over the counter medication use has gone down from 36.9 to 24.5 percent in the same time period.
The researchers also found that MRIs and CT scans went up to 11.3 from 7.2 percent. Additionally, specialist referrals, including those to orthopedic surgeons have gone from seven percent up to 14 percent. It is also believed that these referrals are the cause of the increase of the number of recent back surgeries and MRIs.
The study also found that physical therapy referrals are only at about 20 percent consistently. Certain types of physical therapy, including stretching and building core strength, in addition to jogging and walking, have been shown to improve back pain dramatically. For those types of back pain that last for longer than a couple of months, physical therapy may be more effective than lumbar fusion surgery.
According to the report, the most troublesome aspect of the findings was that narcotic pain medication use has risen rapidly because of the lack of adhering to treatment recommendations. Back pain is not thought to be improved with the use of narcotics, and it can also cause addiction. In 2008 alone, 15,000 people died from overdosing on narcotic pain relievers.
Fr. Landon feels that, for most patients suffering from back pain, management techniques should be encouraged by primary care physicians. Despite the fact that patients insist on seeing specialists, getting all the high tech screenings and getting prescription pain relievers, these steps are often not necessary, and primary care doctors are the ones that can help to stop this from happening.
He feels that when patients realize that most cases of back pain improve over time, they will be more willing to try alternative techniques to manage back pain.