Research published this week looks at the treatment of back and neck pain in America. The study looked at 24,000 US Medical visits from 1999-2010 that were related to back pain. The research shows that Doctors are increasing the use of strong, addictive narcotic drugs in the treatment of back pain. The guidelines given to Doctors in America for the treatment of back and neck pain is to prescribe over the counter anti-inflammatories and to refer for physical therapy. It seems that many Doctors shun the guidelines and as well as prescribing narcotics and pursuing more aggressive treatments.
I find that this study raises many concerns and whilst the study was conducted in America I feel it raises concerns over the direction of healthcare and pain management worldwide.
The study expresses that the current approaches employed by American Doctors are not in keeping with the guidelines and, in many instances, are unnecessary.
- Unnecessary treatment is not only expensive, but can also come with complications. A meta-analysis concluded that narcotics offer minimal benefit to relieve acute back pain and have no proven efficacy in treating chronic back pain.
- At a time when substance abuse is a grave concern it seems worrying that Doctors are consistently prescribing such strong medication.
- Overuse of imaging may not result in immediate problems but exposure to ionizing radiation can lead to further health complications.
- Lead author of the study John N Mafi MD notes a study that linked regions with higher MRI use found an increase in back surgeries, which can be a very costly, stressful process and requires considerable recovery time.
Why do so many physicians seem to be ignoring the guidelines?
The study doesn’t offer insight into that question, but Mafi suspects the desire for a “quick fix” is at play. “The problem is that it really takes a lot of patience to manage back pain,” he said.
At the Osteopathic Centre we have seen a marked increase in the number of Doctor’s referring their back pain and neck pain clients for our integrative approach. The Integrative medicine philosophy is one of individualised, patient-centered care with no standardised, pre-specified clinical intervention. In 2012 referrals from Doctor’s to The Osteopathic Centre increased by 170% from the previous year.
Read more about this study