You’re Getting the Wrong Treatment for Back Pain.
But Why? And How Do We Change It?

Research has repeatedly shown that most patients get the wrong care for low back pain.
A recent study shows that if you’ve received treatment for lower back pain, there’s a good chance you’ve probably received the wrong kind. A recent study published by peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet provides some interesting, but disturbing numbers to consider.

  • Only 50% of Americans with chronic back pain are prescribed exercise
  • Low back pain is the leading worldwide cause of years lost to disability, and its burden is growing alongside the increasing and ageing population.
  • Disability due to back pain has risen by more than 50% since 1990 (a related study)
  • About a third of patients have a repeat episode of low back pain within a year
  • More than one in three people in Africa suffer from low back pain at any given time
  • 540 million people globally are affected by low back pain at any given time, making it the leading cause of disability.

One of the study’s most direct quotes states, “Research has repeatedly shown that most patients get the wrong care for low back pain.”

The study goes on to explain that a specific cause for pain is rarely diagnosed, often leading to broad opioid-based treatments. The most interesting piece to us here at BackShield isn’t necessarily these admittedly powerful numbers (though they do again drive home the issue), but the recommendations the study provides for actually moving a shift toward better treatment. Based on their research, the type of change we need to see requires a multi-faceted approach that covers everything from culture shifts to improved education in the medical community.

WebMD cited another of the more powerful statements in the study: “Protection of the public from unproven or harmful approaches to managing low back pain requires that governments and health care leaders tackle entrenched and counterproductive reimbursement strategies, vested interests, and financial and professional incentives that maintain the status quo,” said study co-author Jan Hartvigsen.

Their call to action, which we fully support, breaks down key areas of change that need to happen to remedy the situation. The full report is free, but we’ve distilled the major change areas they mention, but highly recommend you reference the full report for all the details and more specific ideas suggested.

  • Change priorities
  • Change systems and change practice
  • Change culture
  • Change clinician behavior
  • Tackle vested interests

Have you received treatment for back pain that simply didn’t work, or found out later there was a better, healthier alternative? We’d love to hear your story in the comments.

We hope the BackShield community can become a powerful ally for those struggling with back pain, as well as be a player in driving some of the recommendations the team behind this Lancet study have posited.