Low-back pain affects 31 million Americans at any time. Many of those afflicted are long-term sufferers, dealing with a chronic condition over many years. Professional golfer Tiger Woods and former pro-basketball player-turned-coach Steve Kerr are two high-profile cases who have struggled to combat ongoing low back issues in the public arena. Woods has turned to opioids and Kerr underwent multiple back surgeries – but neither has experienced any positive results.
Back pain is responsible for a large percentage of healthcare overuse each year. What do we mean by ‘healthcare overuse’? The Institute of Medicine National Roundtable on Health Care Quality came up with the term to describe health care services whereby the potential harms outweigh the potential benefits. It comes in many forms, including unnecessary or ‘risky’ diagnostic techniques, unnecessary therapeutic procedures and inappropriate use of medications. The Institute says that these costs – the “healthcare overuse” – account for 10 to 30% of overall healthcare spending. That’s $300 billion a year, minimum.
The Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the treatment of low back pain accounts for $86 BILLION in healthcare spending each year. The cost of back pain surgeries and medications has increased since the early 1990s, yet there has been very little done to actually improve outcomes for sufferers.
Both Kerr and Woods have publicly made mention of this issue.
During a press conference in April 2017, Kerr discouraged those who suffer back problems from undergoing invasive procedures: “I can tell you if you’re listening out there, if you have a back problem, stay away from surgery. I can say that from the bottom of my heart. Rehab, rehab, rehab. Don’t let anybody get in there.”
Likewise, Woods’ ongoing back problems have led him to pharmaceutical opioids. Those opiate medications have yet to provide pain relief, and now Woods is also dealing with the unwanted side effects of taking the drugs.
With high-profile names bringing these issues into the spotlight there’s a strong chance of low-back pain sufferers turning to alternate methods of pain relief. Many studies show that acupuncture works incredibly well for the treatment of back pain, and is proven to be a safer, low-cost solution for pain relief compared to opioids. Multiple MDs have even switched their treatment protocols from pharmaceuticals to acupuncture after yielding better outcomes for their patients.
The FDA this year encouraged doctors to learn about how acupuncture can be used for pain management.
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