A new study released today from Beth Israel Deaconness Hospital in Boston shows that doctors are ignoring medical guidelines and over medicating their patients who suffer from bad back pain. The doctors are even referring the patients for surgeries they don’t need. Yikes!
The report stresses that back pain is a common occurrence — especially among the sedentary set — and that unless there is a specific reason, such as spinal stenosis (bones that grow and squeeze the spinal canal) or a broken vertebra or traumatic injury, most patients need exercise and over-the-counter pain meds, not addictive narcotic drugs and surgery.
The researchers reviewed over 24,000 cases and saw an increase in both prescription pain meds and surgery. Both of which might be unnecessary in a LOT of cases.
Here’s a quote from the study’s author that might indicate what’s going on …
“Patient expectations probably play a big role as well as financial incentives for doctors to order expensive imaging tests,” said study author Dr. John Mafi. He also added, “It takes longer to sit and reassure patients that their pain will likely resolve on its own than it does to order an MRI.”
So, yeah … the patients are whining about their bad back pain and the doctors see an opportunity to make a quick buck. That sounds like awesome medicine, doesn’t it?
Here are some common mistakes doctors make …
Failing to properly diagnose pain from its cause. Doctors can often determine the cause with an in-office physical exam. Apparently this isn’t happening as often as it should.
Diagnosing by MRI. Using MRIs or CAT scans to diagnose can backfire, because as we age, our discs often get out of whack. This would appear on an image, but not necessarily be the cause of the pain. Also these scans should only be ordered if there are warning signs such as tingling in the legs or a previous history of cancer.
Not telling patients that most back pain resolves on its own. Yep, according to Dr. Weil’s website, most back pain will resolve on its own in about two weeks. Weil recommends over-the-counter meds, some anti-inflammatories, and either cold or warm compresses depending on how the patient is feeling. Maximum bed rest should be just one or two days.
Over-prescribing narcotics and surgery. If most back pain resolves on its own then clearly setting a client up to deal with addictive narcotics or painful surgery seems a bit overboard, no? I am trying not to think about the possibility that thousands of people in this country have undergone needless surgery and pain.
Underemphasizing exercise and other treatments. Physical therapy, yoga, Pilates (trust me, Pilates is great!), acupuncture, massage, even meditation have all been shown to decrease lower back pain. So why aren’t doctors sending people to PT before surgery? There are a LOT of ways to make your back feel better without going under the knife.
Let’s face it … most of the back pain in this country is a result of poor posture, a sedentary lifestyle, and weak muscles that easily get cranky. We fix all of this from exercise!! And no, I’m not talking about hard core, beat people into the ground exercises like bootcamp classes. I mean thoughtful movement taught by people who thoroughly understand anatomy and know how to adapt for those with injuries.
The next time your back hurts, I hope you find this post instead of a doctor’s scalpel. Yes, you should definitely go to your doctor if you’re in pain … but you should do everything else first before relying on a prescription for some heavy meds or a date with the O.R.
What do you think of this study?