Study on Back Pain Shows Increase in Medical Interventions with No Better Outcomes

medical interventionsIn a recent blog post, we had reported that back pain was identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the leading cause of disability worldwide.

Through the eye-opening study commissioned by WHO,  we learned that  musculoskeletal conditions such as low back pain have a greater impact on the health of the world population (death and disability) than HIV/AIDS, tropical diseases including malaria, the forces of war and nature, and all neurological conditions combined.

Given the epidemic of back pain, it wouldn’t surprise anyone that patients would be seeking treatments that are not only specific for back pain, but one that would be effective as well.

A recent study published in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, which was conducted by Dr. Richard A. Deyo, MD, MPH, Dr. Judith A. Turner, PhD and Dr. Sohail K. Mirza, MD, MPH, shows that although patients have been running to their medical doctors in droves for back pain, their treatment outcomes have not improved.


The published study shows the following statistics:

1) A 629% increase for epidural steroid injections
2) A 423% increase in expenditures for opioids for back pain
3) A 307% increase in the number of lumbar magnetic resonance images
4) A 231% increase in facet joint injections
5) A 220% increase in spinal fusion surgery rates


Even more troubling is the increase in MRI usage, with no increase in improvement outcomes.  The authors in the study note: “The use of lumbar magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has increased dramatically, and spinal surgery rates are highest where imaging rates are highest. Approximately 33 – 66% of spinal computed tomography (CT) imaging”.  

The authors then point out that “Positive imaging findings result in more surgery and higher costs than those receiving plain x-rays, but the clinical outcomes are no better, including subsequent pain, function, quality of life, or overall improvement.”  The authors then conclude that “Higher spine surgery rates are sometimes associated with worse outcomes.”  They even have the statistics to back up what we have always known: ”In a 1999 study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, the best outcomes occurred where surgery rates were lowest, and the worst results occurred in areas where surgery rates were highest.”

Equally troubling is the darker side of healthcare which the authors touch on: “Manufacturers aggressively promote new drugs and devices for the treatment of back pain, yet there is evidence of misleading advertising, kickbacks to physicians, and major investments by surgeons in the products they are investigating”.


What can we learn from this study?

As healthcare costs continue to rise, it’s become even more imperative to educate patients on their treatment options and inform them on realistic outcomes for procedures such as epidural steroid injections and spinal fusion surgery.  A recent study pointed out by The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (F4CP) showed that “In total, 42.7 percent of workers who initially visited a surgeon underwent surgery, in contrast to only 1.5 percent of those who first consulted a chiropractor”.

For many back pain sufferers, chiropractic still proves to be the most effective and economical form of treatment.


Success Story:  How Glenn Avoided Back Surgery with Chiropractic


Don’t Be a Back Pain Statistic

Part of correcting the problem of back pain is knowing what works and what doesn’t.  The latest research study published by the orthopedic journal Spine demonstrates how effective chiropractic care can be for back pain.  If you live in Augusta GA and suffer from back pain, contact our friendly staff at Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic for a complimentary, private consultation.  With our back-pain-specific treatments, we have significantly helped a range of back pain sufferers with their condition.  If you would like to get started today with an experienced chiropractor in Augusta GA, call our friendly office at (706) 814-5053 or schedule your appointment online.  We look forward to seeing if our results-oriented treatments are the right fit for you and your condition.

The Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic Blog is written by Dr. Mark Huntsman.

Augusta GA Chiropractor Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic provides customized chiropractic care to the Augusta GA, Martinez GA, and Evans GA communities. Visit our main website at for customized chiropractic in Augusta GA.

Choose several options to schedule your appointment: call (706) 814-5053, use our online voicemail, or use our online form.