Have you been given the run-around to find help to reduce low back and sciatica pain? Hundreds of thousands of American back pain sufferers are being given harmful or useless treatments, prompting researchers to make an extraordinary plea to protect the public.
- Doctors often prescribe addictive opioids and potentially harmful treatments (such as spinal fusion surgery), despite there being little evidence these treatments work. Meanwhile, inexpensive treatments that do work are rarely prescribed. “The elephant in the room is vested interests – among industry but also clinicians,” says Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, head author of the editorial and an academic at Monash University and the Cabrini Institute. “Clinicians want to do the best for their patients. But they often believe in treatments even when the evidence shows they don’t work.”
- Many people can have a difficult time diagnosing why they have back pain. Some risk factors are known: obesity, inactivity, and jobs involving heavy labor. The condition has a noteworthy mental component; disliking your job and depression are other strong risk factors.
- Despite limited evidence of their effectiveness, most back pain treatments are funded by Medicare, costing taxpayers billions every year. Treatments proven to work – like yoga – are not covered. “We waste billions. People are being treated with too much of the wrong stuff and missing out on the right stuff,” says Professor Chris Maher, a back-pain expert based at the University of Sydney.
In America, we have a system that is essentially allowed to do as it pleases in terms of marketing unproven products and methods. People are making billions on something that is unproven. How is that right?
Something that has been proven to work, has been a combination of physical therapy and occupational therapy with a holistic approach. Exercise is the core of chronic back pain treatment. It’s one of the first treatments you should try under the direction of your physician and physical therapist. However, the same set of exercises doesn’t work for everyone. The exercises have to be personalized to your specific symptoms and condition.
A holistic approach is often over looked. Many physical and occupational therapists focus on the biomechanical aspect of the body, without ever considering the possibilities of natural healing.
Michael DeRose, a Kinesiology student from CSU Monterey Bay says, “I tried everything to alleviate my back pain after a snowboard injury. Acupuncture, massage therapy, prescription drugs, cryotherapy on their own were not helpful. The only thing that made a difference was seeing a physical therapist who integrated holistic healing into my treatment program. In therapy, I had a personalized exercise program and other supplemental treatments to help reduce inflammation and finally break the cycle of pain.”