3 new international studies reported in the Lancet, have raised serious concerns regarding the increasing use of high-tech interventions to treat lower back pain.
The papers claim that often surgery, injections and dangerous opioid drugs are used to treat lower back pain for the benefit of ‘vested interests’, rather than the patient. The chair of the Royal College of GPs has called for doctors to ‘dispel myths’, advising that in most cases, what people need, is exercise and the earliest possible return to work and their normal life.
Lower back pain is the commonest cause of disability in the world, affecting over 540 million people. It places a huge burden on the economy, with 1 million years of productive life lost every year in the UK due to it. The causes are often unclear, but increasingly lifestyle link such as obesity, smoking and lack of activity are thought to be leading causes.
Prof Martin Underwood from Warwick University’s medical school, one of the authors, commented that only 1% of these cares are linked to serious disease such as an infection or cancer. Many medical experts argue that in some cases MRI scans are counterproductive, only picking up physical abnormalities. However, such scans are crucial in helping to diagnose serious health conditions such as Cauda Equina Syndrome. A concern shared by some doctors is that squeezed NHS funding may impact on the availability of MRI scans, with scans not being performed when they should be.
A concern raised in the new studies is that the NHS limited resources are being used on treatments which are ‘not very helpful for patients’. A particular concern was raised in relation to spinal injections to ease lower back pain, suggesting there is little evidence to demonstrate their effectiveness. Serious concerns were also raised over the rising number of opioid painkiller prescriptions in the NHS, arguing that equally effective and much safer drugs are available.
Moosa-Duke Solicitors are specialists in clinical negligence law. We have extensive experience in dealing with serious spinal injuries. If you believe that you or a family member have been a victim of negligence, both privately or under the NHS, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0116 254 7456, so that we can discuss your concerns.