Are You Looking in the Right Place for Back Pain Relief?
What You Can Learn From America’s Back
A June 2010 article by Associated Press
Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard shines a bright light on the problem of back pain in America. In the article,
entitled “Back Pain May Be Widely Over-Treated in the U.S.”, she raises some great questions
about how we’re spending our healthcare dollars, what we’re getting for it and
“By one recent
estimate, Americans are spending a staggering $86 billion a year in care for aching backs—from
MRIs to pain pills to nerve blocks to acupuncture. That research found little evidence that the
population got better as the bill soared over the past decade.”
Ms. Neergaard’s writing hits close to home,
and the situation she describes is probably familiar to anyone who’s tried to find relief from
serious back pain in the past few years. But what does it all mean to you if you or someone you
care about is a patient looking for relief?
Here’s a quick summary of the more important takeaways from Ms. Neergard’s
article as well as some practical points to keep in mind as you consider your options and
work with your healthcare provider on a treatment plan:
While back pain in general is a widespread problem in the U.S., the specifics
always come down to the individual. There is no silver bullet—the treatment that was
effective for your neighbor may not be right for you. Your healthcare provider can evaluate
your symptoms and advise you on the appropriateness of alternative therapies.
Time is usually on your side when it comes to back pain. Up to 90% of patients
will heal on their own within a matter of weeks. Unless your healthcare provider sees “red
flag” symptoms, patients should generally exhaust their noninvasive options first before
“Exercise is medicine, but it has to be the right
exercise.” Formal exercise programs that are designed and supervised by experts can be
effective provided that the patient is able to manage and function with
Your own motivation and attitude can make a big
difference in the effectiveness of your treatment. Patients who can work through pain, stay
focused on the plan and get back to normal activity as quickly as possible will generally
have the advantage when it comes to recovery.
Make sure you have access to a neutral third party (perhaps your chiropractor
or family doctor) who can help you weigh the advice of various specialists and navigate
through your choices. And always get a second opinion if surgery is being
Back pain is a complex phenomenon and it’s often very difficult to treat
successfully. At a time when health science regularly produces new miracles and we’ve come to
expect instant results, it can be difficult for us to keep this basic truth in perspective.
What comes through loud and clear in Ms. Neergaard’s article is that our most advanced
diagnostic technologies and sophisticated surgical procedures are not solving the back pain
problem for millions of Americans. And that it’s costing us a great deal of money to fail
using our most expensive techniques.
This raises two big-picture questions, not just for U.S. health care policy
makers and administrators, but for anyone who’s trying to make smart decisions about back
Given the pervasiveness of back pain in America, the number of people who are
likely suffering without treatment and the kinds of issues Ms. Neergaard writes about, can it
really be said that we’re “over-treating” back pain? Wouldn’t it be closer to the truth to
say that we’re mistreating it by using too many of the wrong tools in too many of the wrong
cases? If so, what does her reporting really suggest about the direction we should be
There are many factors contributing to our national back
pain epidemic, and many of them have to do with our lifestyle choices and the way we manage
our health more broadly. What should we be willing to spend for an ounce of prevention when
it comes to back pain?
How Your Chiropractic Physician Can
If you or someone you care about is suffering with back pain, call your Doctor
of Chiropractic. Chiropractic Physicians are specially licensed and trained to diagnose and
treat conditions related to the musculoskeletal system and the nerves that support it. They
can help relieve back pain by using spinal adjustments. This spinal manipulation is the
primary form of treatment performed by chiropractic physicians and is a widely recognized
back pain therapy. Research has shown that manipulative therapy and spinal manipulation are
not only safe and effective, but can also produce results more quickly and less expensively
than other alternatives.
Many chiropractors are also skilled in designing and supervising exercise and
nutrition programs. They’re committed to helping patients achieve a healthier lifestyle that
prevents illness and promotes performance.
Back Pain May be Widely Over-Treated in the U.S.. MSNBC Pain
Center. Lauran Neergaard. June 8, 2010. Accessed August