Back pain increasingly treated improperly with MRIs, painkillers as MDs search for quick fix

“We are a society that demands instant solutions, but back pain doesn't play by these rules,” Mafi says.

A new research study has found worsening trends (from 1999 to 2010) on the management of low back pain. Specifically, the increase use of MRIs and strong painkillers (OxyContin for example), despite their poor performance.  

The National Post has an excellent and concise write up about this study here mentioning the need for Physical Therapy. Although, they mentioned waiting on PT initially. 

However, we know seeing patients earlier (within 14 days) will resolve their symptoms of pain much faster and be more effective (in regards to experiencing decreased risk of further treatment such as advanced imaging, additional physician visits, surgery, injections, and pain-reliever medications. "The study also revealed that during the 18-month follow-up period, medical costs for the early treatment group were $2,736 per patient lower than the group that delayed physical therapy") then a 'wait and see' or delayed PT as mentioned in the National Post. 

Instead of medication, then PT if necessary, we should think about PT first. Especially if we can educate on pain (and medication!) within our first treatment. Personally, I would be happy with a 2-3 visit maximum referral from any MD for acute pain and then return to PT after a month or so as mentioned by the Dr Mafi of this study. 

Better yet, we know direct access is best for the patients (in regards to Dx and outcomes) and can get far superior results (then medication,seeing the MD, etc).  Now its our job to start educating the public (and physicians) on this! Simply put, the sooner you can get care for your pain, the easier it is fix.