When thirty-one of the world’s leading back pain experts are in agreement it’s worth taking note.
That’s exactly what happened when leading researchers published a remarkable report in The Lancet stating that treatments doctors regularly prescribe for back pain such as addictive opioid medication and surgical intervention like spinal fusions don’t actually work. Through Medicare we spend around 4.8 billion in Australia on back pain treatments with little evidence of efficacy, yet the interventions that are shown to work like Yoga are not subsidised.
At a time when everybody is concerned about blow outs in medical budgets and advocating for the advancement of evidence based medicine, it’s astonishing a condition that effects so many people in Australia: one in two have experienced back pain in the last month, could be so poorly managed on such a large scale.
A world leading back pain expert from the University of Sydney, Professor Chris Maher sums it up nicely, "We waste billions. People are being treated with too much of the wrong stuff and missing out on the right stuff".
We can assume that all doctors want to help their patients but they are either badly informed or blindly believe in treatments despite the lack of clinical evidence to back that belief. There’s also the prospect of vested interest in the medical industry and amongst clinicians being at play according to lead author of the editorial and Monash University academic Professor Rachelle Buchbinder.
The good news: some of the least expensive treatments like exercise therapy and psychological counseling showed good results.
We know the risk factors for back pain include obesity, inactivity and a job that involves heavy lifting. What interesting is that disliking your job and depression also heighten your risk of back pain.
Whilst it’s fair to say that everybody’s experience of back pain is unique, the most effective strategies I have seen work are therapies that enable back pain sufferers to improve their mobility and posture. Ultimately getting moving in any way that brings you joy is a goal that supports wellbeing on every level.