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Most doctors ignore guidelines for back pain treatment

Most doctors ignore guidelines for back pain treatment

About 80 percent of Americans suffer from neck or back pain at some point in their lives. According to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, however, many doctors are ignoring established treatment guidelines and opting for more expensive and invasive procedures, and this could have dire repercussions for Illinois residents who suffer from this type of pain. Current guidelines call for treating back pain with mild pain killers like acetaminophen and aspirin. Many doctors instead prescribe stronger narcotics-based drugs and order expensive tests like CT and MRI scans.

The study raised several concerns. Some researchers feel that the expensive scans are unnecessary and say that overall health care costs could be drastically decreased if doctors were urged to adhere to treatment guidelines. The study includes statistics that show that the use of acetaminophen and aspirin for back pain decreased from 1999 to 2010 while the use of narcotics spiked dramatically. This is of concern because narcotics are highly addictive. Abuse of prescription drugs cost the U.S. more than $50 billion annually, and 60 percent of overdose deaths are related to pharmaceuticals.

Some of the more invasive and aggressive approaches currently pursued by doctors can actually harm the patient, according to the lead researcher of the study. CT scans and X-rays deliver large doses of radiation, and one woman was severely injured by epidural steroid injections that were administered for her back pain.

The lead researcher of the study suggested that doctors were probably pursuing more drastic treatments for neck and back pain out of a sincere desire to help patients. Nonetheless, sometimes medical negligence comes into play, and patients are injured by overzealous treatment strategies for back pain. In some cases, malpractice lawyers may be able to determine if doctor error played a role in the injury.

Source: Medical Daily, “Most Doctors Neglect Back Pain Guidelines, Leading To Rise In Narcotic Prescriptions And Expensive MRIs“, Samantha Olson, August 30, 2013

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