Back pain is brutal. Stubborn. A destroyer of health, happiness and all things good.
Back pain affects 70% of adults and costs well over $100 billion per year in the US alone. A recent article from the Journal of the American Medical Association listed back pain as the most expensive health condition. That’s right, even ahead of ever-popular diabetes and the bronze medalist heart disease.
As a chiropractic physician, educator and researcher I am here to help you understand why back pain is common, costly and one of the most difficult healthcare problems to effectively treat.
Reason #1: Back pain is insanely complicated. There are over 150 anatomic structures that can cause back pain. Most patients have five of these contributing to their symptoms. That is 592,000,000 combinations. Most doctors can only list 5–10 possible sources for back pain. If your doctor is ill-equipped to figure out what is wrong there is little chance they can fix it.
Reason #2: Practice guidelines recommend focusing on the reduction of pain rather than the restoration of health. This is backwards. If your back is unhealthy then you are far more likely to have pain. Pain is a warning signal indicating poor health. Not dissimilar to chest pain when you have heart disease. Thankfully, cardiologists don’t treat your chest pain but instead focus on your heart health. Doctors that treat back pain need to focus on restoring range of motion, increasing strength, slowing or stopping degeneration and reducing inflammation. The difficult thing is accomplishing this in the context of your specific diagnosis.
Reason #3: You hired the lowest bidder to solve your problem. If you are expecting clinical excellence from your doctor that is in-network with your insurance, think again. Ask a room full of doctors what is your #1 goal and 90% will say to stop accepting insurance. Insurance limits the services your doctor provides, controls prices and adds an administrative burden. Insurance is the top reason for physician burnout. Like anything else, expect to pay for excellence.
Reason #4: Solutions for back pain don’t scale. The problem is individual, the cure is individual and a patented pharmacological solution is not going to happen. If there is no money there is no incentive. This is why back pain is the most expensive healthcare problem yet it is #147 for research funding.
Reason #5: Quick fix culture clashes with the true requirements for healing. Despite all of the YouTube videos screaming “One simple stretch to instantly fix back pain forever.” There isn’t a simple fix. Stop looking. Instead, you have to decide if you want to do the work of healing or continue to live in pain.
What can you do? I don’t know. I don’t have a solution that scales. I invented detailed systems, software and procedures to diagnose and effectively treat back pain. I taught full-time for 14 years and even published impressive results, yet the most common questions from doctors that might be interested in learning the system are “Can I get paid more?” and “Can I learn it quickly?” No and no. You don’t want these doctors caring for you.
All I can say is keep looking. Find a doctor that is in the top 0.1% that can help solve your problem. I have had the great fortune of training some of the hardest working, purpose-driven and skill-building doctors in the world. They are out there. If you are suffering from back pain make it your job to find them.
Dr. Brady is the founder of the Brady Back Institute near Boston, MA.
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Reason #1: If your doctor is ill-equipped to figure out what is wrong there is little chance they can fix it.
Reason #2: Practice guidelines recommend focusing on the reduction of pain rather than the restoration of health. This is backwards.
Reason #3: Insurance limits the services your doctor can provide. For clinical excellence you probably have to go outside insurance restrictions.
Reason #4: There is no catch-all solution. Back Pain solutions have to be indiaualized. It’s hard work and necessary.
Reason #5: Quick fix culture clashes with the true requirements for healing.