Saturday, February 7, 2009

"Scans for Back Pain Ineffective"

Tara Parker-Pope published this article yesterday in the NYT: Scans for Back Pain Ineffective

She can say that again. Not only does the scanning or imaging process do nothing whatever for the "pain", it may result in misleading interpretations of the imaging; well-meaning people may consider or resort to treatments that reinforce the problem rather than help the pain experience to disappear.


"Researchers from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland reviewed six clinical trials comprised of nearly 2,000 patients with lower back pain. They found that back pain patients who underwent scans didn’t get better any faster or have less pain, depression or anxiety than patients who weren’t scanned. More important, the data suggested that patients who get scanned for back pain may end up with more pain than those who are left alone, according to the report published this week in the medical journal Lancet."
"The problem, say researchers, is that back scans can turn up physical changes in the back that aren’t really causing any problem."
“You can find lots of stuff on X-rays and M.R.I.’s like degenerative disks and arthritis, but these things are very weakly correlated with low back pain,” said study author Dr. Roger Chou, associate professor of medicine at Oregon Health. “We think we’re helping patients by doing a test, but we’re adding cost, exposing people to radiation and people may be getting unnecessary surgery. They start to think of themselves as having a horrible back problem and they stop doing exercise and things that are good for them, when in reality, a lot of people have degenerative disks and arthritis and have no pain at all.”

I completely agree. In addition to unnecessary surgery, they may be getting unnecessary manipulation and other "treatment" which is focused on supposedly misbehaving mesodermal derivatives instead of helping the ectodermal derivatives (i.e., skin, nerves, brain, embedded "I"- illusion) all learn to get along better.


Kent said...

For a moment I thought I would comment that "ignorance is bliss". But really, the problem is misinterpreting data. Having the data (I have a ruptured disc) is a good thing if you can keep it in the right context.

The difference is important to me.
If I think very much about my knee replacement, I sometimes imagine that it must be hurting where all that bone was cut away. There are times when I walk more than usual where that knee does get a little sore, but perhaps it has very little to do with the fact that surgery was done there. I can't pretend I don't know that I have a prosthetic joint, but I can try to keep that in perspective.

Merelyme said...

I was wondering if there is any way to contact the authors of this blog. I am a writer over at Health Central and was wondering if you might wish to do a written interview. Let me know...