Back pain has been known as one of the most common injuries people suffer from. In an NPR segment this week, various treatments for lower back pain were discussed. The article notes that many clinicians are finding that more conservative treatments can help to improve people’s symptoms without the need for aggressive treatments.
Spinal injuries can be complex issues to accurately diagnosis and treat, particularly given the myriad of potential causes of back pain. As noted in the article, many patients can be treated overaggressively. It is important for both patient and clinician to understand the specific cause of the pain and to treat it with an appropriate and comprehensive course of care. In the case mentioned in the article with Dr. Groopman, for instance, recommendations for an episode of acute and localized back pain, despite the severity of symptoms, rarely includes surgical fusion. His spinal instability had likely been there for years and would be an unlikely cause an acute episode of back pain. Furthermore, surgery for such conditions has shown to have much lower success rates, which, unfortunately, is what Dr. Groopman experienced.
The medical literature tells us that the overwhelming majority of low back pain episodes will resolve on their own within 12 weeks. Any treatments for spinal pain should be evidence based and diagnosis specific. Only when patients fail a more conservative course of care should higher level interventions be considered.