A recently published book by investigative journalist Cathryn Jakobson Ramin reveals that the back pain industry may be more crooked than you think. In her book, Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery, Ramin exposes the motive behind frightening diagnoses and the influence of pharmaceutical companies. In addition, she shatters assumptions about surgery, chiropractic methods and spinal injections.
It is estimated that about 62 million American adults suffer from some type of back pain. The back pain industry is worth about $100 billion dollars per year. Nevertheless, most treatments and therapies are ineffective and sometimes even dangerous.
The Secrets of the Back Pain Industry
Ramin spent six years traveling around the world talking with patients, health-care professionals, and therapists. She conducted over 600 interviews. In addition, she had spent many years and thousands of dollars treating her chronic back pain. In the end, Ramin found that a big problem exists when it comes to spine medicine.
Next Avenue interviewed Ramin about her research. Here are some of the most important highlights from the book.
Many Treatments are Either Unnecessary or Dangerous
In her research, Ramin interviewed countless health care professionals to uncover which treatments are actually effective. Here’s her opinion about chiropractic care:
If you just developed back pain, there’s evidence that one to two sessions with a chiropractor may help you. More than that, there’s absolutely no evidence for it, and anyone who has gone to see a chiropractor knows there are very few chiropractors who want to see you for one to two sessions. The moment you come through that door, you are told that, for maintenance purposes, you need to come very, very regularly for a very, very long time, maybe forever. And there is no evidence at all for that.
When she polled 100 spine surgeons, here’s what she discovered:
This was a question posed to spine surgeons: ‘Would you have spine surgery?’ [Specifically lumbar fusion or disc replacement surgery.] And resoundingly, in this group, all said ‘No,’ except one. Now, that should tell you all you need to know.
The Opioid Epidemic Connection
The typical response by a doctor when treating someone with back pain is to offer pain relief. And the simplest way to do this is with pharmaceuticals. Ramin states:
What happened was doctors felt compelled to prescribe opioids to patients who were suffering. And the drug companies were right behind that, pushing that all back pain should be treated immediately with opioids.
There is little contention to the claim that prescription painkillers are dangerous. They have been responsible for over 183,000 deaths over the last 15 years. Some particular brands have killed thousands. Furthermore, misuse, abuse and addiction are rampant. For example, in 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids.
Interestingly, a recent study out of the University of Colorado-Boulder has found that prescription opioids may actually worsen chronic pain. Furthermore, the study discovered that these drugs may in fact prolong the condition that they are supposed to help placate.
You Are Probably the Only One Who Can Fix You
In her book, Ramin stresses that many doctors and therapists in the back pain industry will lead you to therapeutic dead ends. She states:
Before you decide to put your faith in any provider, look extremely closely at that provider’s record. If you get sent for an MRI a couple of days after back pain with no intention of having surgery, ask why you are going for that MRI, because the only use for an MRI is for preparation for either surgery or an epidural steroid injection.
Consequently, what helped Ramin defeat her chronic back pain was “intensive, directed exercise.” She discovered that therapists dole out lots of disinformation, which makes it difficult for sufferers to find out what works. But, according to Ramin, it will be up to you to fix your back pain, and no one else.
The bad news here, or maybe it’s good news, is that you are not going to find someone who will fix you. You will be the fixer. You will be the one who develops the intensive exercise program that is going to allow you to escape from this.