Seeking adequate relief for your back pain can be more difficult than you expect in some cases. Studies on low back pain suggest that doctors in Florida may be falling short when it comes to treating their patients back problems effectively.
More often than not, it seems like physicians are choosing to prescribe expensive scans, prescription painkillers, and further back pain treatments that really don’t help alleviate the base issue. In fact, these measures can exacerbate a patient’s back problems in certain cases. Frankly, this poses a very significant issue, since nearly 1 out of every 10 primary care visits are for low back pain.
Study Shows a Decline in Quality of Treatment
For most cases, people can treat their back pain symptoms with over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or with some physical therapy. Most people living in Florida will experience back pain at some point in their lives, but you won’t always require treatment. However, research has shown that the quality of treatment being offered by doctors have been declining when it comes to this medical condition.
(A research team from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston analyzed the records from 23,918 doctor visits for simple back pain between 1999 and 2010.)
This low back pain clinical study showed that doctors had begun recommending NSAID pain relievers and acetaminophen less frequently. On the contrary, the data suggests that more doctors in Florida have begun prescribing various opioids like OxyContin. At the same time, the usage of over-the-counter painkillers for low back pain declined. Further research has shown that opioids are not as effective at treating acute back pain and are worthless for chronic cases of back pain.
Have Doctors Overcorrected?
According to Dr. John Mafi, the lead author of this study, this decline poses a very serious public health issue. Two decades ago, doctors had been accused of ignoring the pain felt by their patients too often. While some of the criticism may have been valid at the time, doctors seem to have overcorrected in response. Unfortunately, powerful pain medications like OxyContin have been used as an all in one answer.
It also seems like some doctors were quick to call for medical imaging tests like MRI and CT scans when their patients complained of low back pain. Over the time period analyzed, the number of people who were receiving scans increased from 7 to 11 percent. While the scans don’t physically hurt the patient, they haven’t proven very effective for these types of cases, and they are fairly expensive ($1,000+).
The Blame Cannot Rest Entirely on Doctors
Of course, the blame for these growing number of scans also lies with the patients. Nowadays, patients expect more during their evaluations, and it can feel validating when their doctor orders a scan after their personal suggestion. With many patients being swayed by online reviews, doctors have a very real incentive to try and accommodate the wishes of their patients.
In the end, there are a few other pieces of information which should be remembered. For one thing, the recommended guidelines for the treatment of back pain have been fairly conflicted over the years. Also, it can take as long as 17 years for new treatment standards to be widely adopted, even though checklist-type guidelines for doctors could expedite this process. Other suggestions for improving the quality of back pain care provided in Florida include providing paid incentives for doctors who make improvements and increasing the price of medical imaging.