Back pain is costing our nation billions in medications, injections, surgeries, and lost wages. Americans are missing an average of 7.2 days of work (over a week!) every year because of back pain and injury. Some cases start off as minor pain that comes and goes and then eventually comes and stays. Others have an intense onset of pain due to an injury or repetitive micro traumas. No matter the cause, back pain has become one of the number one causes of disability in our country.
The typical medical diagnostic regimen for low back pain is X-Ray, MRI, blood tests, bone scan, and EMG studies. Depending on where these diagnostics are performed, costs can range from $2,000-$7,000 for any combination of these tests. The diagnostic value of these tests can vary, especially if the tests are performed while the patient is lying down. This is because back pain is a mostly weight-bearing condition, and the structures of the back, especially the spine and discs, can look quite different on imaging when the effects of gravity are removed.
Many people start taking over the counter medication for their pain, but in most cases, the pain eventually escalates to the level where these drugs no longer provide relief. The next step is prescription pain killers and muscle relaxants. While these do relieve the pain in most cases, many patients report being uncomfortable with the many side effects. Furthermore, the body’s tolerances build up, and the patient requires greater dosages and stronger prescriptions to get relief. The opioid epidemic is a result of this trend.
PHYSICAL THERAPY/MASSAGE THERAPY/STRETCHING
There are many positive outcomes from therapy and at home stretches and exercises. While at home stretching routines are virtually free, therapy sessions typically cost $55-$150 per visit. Though most people report positive benefits from their therapy, the overwhelming majority also report the relief to be temporary, only lasting a few hours to a few days.
EPIDURAL STEROID INJECTIONS
Steroid shots are designed to temporarily reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. The injections cost $600-$1,000 per shot, and the relief typically lasts a few days to a few months. Because these injections do cause tissue damage, most patients are limited to no more than three per year.
For those with minor disc involvement, surgery ranges from $12,000-$19,000. Spinal fusions or laminectomies (surgeries removing the lamina or back part of the vertebrae) are performed to reduce nerve pressure caused by arthritis or when disc surgery and injections don’t work. These surgeries range from $77,000-$115,000, and the rehabilitation can last for months following the procedure. The long-term outcome assessments from these procedures have been less than favorable, and many patients report the pain returning.
Even among the medical community, chiropractic care has become a preferred method of treatment for back pain. Unlike other treatments, chiropractic addresses the true cause of the pain which is a misalignment of the vertebrae causing nerve pressure. Once the spine is aligned and balanced, the nerve pressure is relieved, and the pain and muscle spasms are alleviated. Because no other profession or protocol restores proper spinal alignment (the true cause of the pain), other treatments end up with temporary results (if any). Not only does chiropractic care address the root cause, it is also safe! A study published in the 1995* Journal of Manipulative Physiotherapy concluded that “cervical manipulation for neck pain is safer than NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Tylenol), by a factor of as much as seven hundred times. . . [T]here is no evidence that indicates that NSAIDs are more effective than cervical manipulation for neck pain.” Chiropractic care is not only safe, but it is effective!
A little-known fact about back pain is its connection to diet. Certain foods can exacerbate pain while others work to reduce it. Inflammation, the body’s natural swelling response to injury or toxicity, induces pain as the body attempts to heal itself. By removing irritant foods from the diet and increasing antioxidants and other nutrients, the healing cycle is given the fuel it needs to repair tissues and reduce the pain associated with inflammation. Furthermore, by following the cellular health program, fat loss is achieved and excess pounds come off, reducing the strain on the human frame.