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Back Pain Spending Up, Relief Down
Date:2/12/2008

Extra dollars aren't buying results, study says

TUESDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Americans are spending more money trying to ease back and neck pain, but new research suggests those extra dollars aren't buying more relief.

The increased expenditures were expected, said the authors of a study in the Feb. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, but the lack of results weren't.

"This calls into question whether we're providing treatments to people who aren't going to benefit," said study author Brook Martin, a research scientist in the department of orthopedics and sports medicine at the University of Washington, in Seattle. "This calls for a need for more effectiveness studies and looking at which patients would benefit from treatments and diagnostic tests."

"Spine problems are the most common reason why people of middle age have pain and disability, and we need to continue to search for better solutions because, although we have come up with newer techniques of treatments, we still have a large percentage of the of population with spine problems who are still disabled," added Dr. Andrew Sherman, head of medical rehabilitation at the Spine Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

That said, Sherman continued, "just because [the study authors] did not find improvement over the entire group doesn't mean that many individuals are not deriving benefit from treatment. There are many individual patients who do see improvements."

According to background information in the article, 26 percent of U.S. adults in 2002 reported lower back pain, and 14 percent reported neck pain during the previous three months.

Low back pain alone accounted for about 2 percent of all doctor's office visits, exceeded only by routine exams, hypertension and diabetes. At the same time, there have been increases in the rates of imaging, injections, use of opiates a
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