Doctors Continue to Overuse Many Tests and Drugs for Back Pain Despite Cautions from Experts

I have been saying this for years and encourage my patients to be careful with the endless prescriptions of dangerous drugs and unnecessary tests. Because most doctors and other health care professionals do not understand the real cause behind the back pain condition.

They prescribe some painkillers or other medication but obviously after weeks of this the pain keeps coming back when the painkillers are no longer being taken. An endless cycle of different tablets are being prescribed until a referral for further investigations is being prescribed.

The scan comes back negative or showing some general wear and tear signs, which is mostly part of the normal aging process. As nothing was found, a sheet with some general exercises is given and being told to maybe lose some weight, take up some exercise etc. and give it some time and you should be better.

Is Your Doctor Still Ordering Too Many Tests for Lower Back Pain, Headaches, and More?

There is a chance after a good while the pain goes away, but returning with a vengeance again after a few weeks or months. You go through the same cycle again over and over, even attending many different healthcare professionals with no positive outcome.

Here is some more interesting information released by Consumer Reports...


Doctors have long known that some of the care they provide is unnecessary: Think antibiotics for sinus infections, MRIs for lower back pain, CT scans for headaches, and chest X-rays before routine surgery. Such care is not only often a waste of money, but can also be dangerous, in some cases exposing you to drug side effects, possibly harmful radiation, and other risks. Yet doctors often order those tests and treatments, in part because of pressure from patients, advertising, and the fact that doctors often get paid more for doing more, not less.

To combat that problem, more than 70 medical specialty societies, such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Radiology, and American Society of Nephrology, contributed to a campaign called Choosing Wisely that hopes to rein in overuse. So far the campaign has identified more than 400 tests and treatments that doctors and patients should talk about before ordering.

But a new study has found that, for at least some of these conditions, doctors apparently have been slow to embrace their own movement.
Too Many Tests

The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found promising decreases, of about 10 percent, in how often doctors ordered two things known to be overused:

  • CT scans and MRI imaging tests for people with uncomplicated headaches.
  • EKGs and exercise stress tests in patients who have no history or symptoms of heart conditions.

But for five other overused procedures, the prevalence remained the same or even grew:

  • Anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and celecoxib for people with high blood pressure, heart failure or chronic kidney disease
  • Antibiotics for sinus infections
  • HPV testing to screen for cervical cancer, in women under 30
  • Chest X-rays before many surgeries
  • MRIs, X-rays, and CT scans for lower back pain.

To be fair, the study was limited. It covered just seven of the Choosing Wisely measures, early in the campaign. (The campaign was launched in April 2012, and the latest study data were from 2013). Also, the study is based on one nationwide commercial insurance company's payment records, which is not necessarily an accurate view of what all patients and doctors are doing in the exam room.

Still, the study underscores how hard it can be to get doctors and patients to change entrenched habits.

“It is a courageous step for health care providers to question their own behavior and to talk to their patients about why less is sometimes more," says Tara Montgomery, senior director for Health Impact at Consumer Reports. “The true test of the Choosing Wisely movement is not the number of procedures but the number of conversations. The reduction in utilization and waste will eventually follow.”

Have you questioned any tests recommended by your doctor?

To help in that effort, Consumer Reports has created free brochures on more than 100 of these overused tests and treatments, for you to use when discussing your health care.

Of course, it’s often hard to raise these issues with your doctor. So here are the five questions you should always ask your doctor.

  1. Do I really need this test or procedure?
  2. What are the risks and side effects?
  3. Are there simpler, safer options?
  4. What happens if I don’t do anything?
  5. How much does it cost?

Please take control of your back pain today, and get the correct advise for your particular condition. This way you do not get locked into a medical and cultural paradigm that dictates an unending parade of ineffective treatments. One procedure leads to the next until you finally abandon your status as a functional person with a low back problem…

…becoming nothing more than forage for the back pain industry’s hungry machinery.

Any questions please feel free to leave a comment below...

back-pain-truth-bookStart Taking Control of Your Back Pain Today!

And STOP wasting money on a never ending parade of un-effective treatments...

...Then download the FREE 'Back Pain Truths'
book and start your journey
to living life pain free

By | 2017-01-14T20:33:57+00:00 November 23rd, 2015|

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About the Author:

He is a Physiotherapist, specialising in back pain, author and known as a rebel in the back pain industry. He has 24 years clinical experience, having helped hundreds of patients in his clinic and thousands worldwide to overcome back pain. He is on a mission to change how spinal conditions are treated...