Is Back Pain Being Mis-managed with Ineffective and Potentially Harmful Treatments?

This is the accusation directed at the medical fraternity and made by a team of international health experts.

In three papers published in the esteemed Lancet medical journal, the Australian and international authors assert that there is an over-reliance on scans, surgeries and opioid prescriptions to treat a problem that could be more effectively addressed through self-management and less-invasive physical and psychological therapies.


Professor Buchbinder  states, “Both clinicians and the public have misconceptions that we can identify a cause and therefore we can treat something specific.”

“Back pain should not be treated as an “injury”, but as an issue that comes and goes and, in many cases, can be effectively managed.”

Australian back pain expert, Professor Chris Maher, is the lead author of another of the Lancet papers. He said that while surgery has “at best a very limited role for low back pain”, Australian studies showed frequent use of spinal fusion.


“The current epidemic of addiction and rising mortality resulting from increased opioid prescribing in the US over the past 20 years provides a dramatic example of the disastrous effects of harmful medical intervention.” Professor Buchbinder


The treatment for low back has changed. Recent changes to major international guidelines for the management of low back pain mean that general practitioners are now unlikely to recommend pain medicines which were previously the go-to treatment.

A new national plan aims to improve the lives of people living with ongoing pain, through more Medicare-funded services and better-informed doctors.

The plan also calls for a new pain medicine certificate that would encourage doctors to prescribe fewer drugs to deal with pain, instead ordering exercise and psychological management strategies.

Doctors could get the certificate through six months of study, according to the Daily Telegraph, while a new website would be launched to educate people more broadly about managing pain without drugs.

“For lower back pain people are popping pills and having surgery but for the last 15 years we’ve known you’ve got to get moving, and rehabilitate yourself with physical management,” Pain Australia chief executive Carol Bennett says.

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