New Civilization News: Healing A Bad Back--An Effort in Painful Futility?    
 Healing A Bad Back--An Effort in Painful Futility?9 comments
picture10 Feb 2004 @ 16:05, by Bruce Kodish

Yesterday's New York Times (Feb. 9, 2004) published a long article by Gina Kolata entitled, "Healing a Bad Back Is Often an Effort in Painful Futility." Link

The article gives a pretty good rundown of some of the facts familiar to knowledgable health-care providers: Alot of money and effort gets spent with very questionable return on investment.

As the article puts it, "...for all the costs, for all the hours spent in doctors' offices and operating suites, for all the massage therapy and acupuncture and spinal manipulations, study after study is leading medical experts to ask what, if anything, is doing any good..."

The report goes on to note that most people get better without treatment (not quite the positive news you might think--since "better" doesn't necessarily mean "pain-free"). The article also notes that for those who don't get better, the best approach (according the experts quoted) may be to learn live with the pain.

What a depressing conclusion...even more so because the article and the experts it quotes fail to give an adequate picture of the problem and thus encourage an unnecessary fatalism about the possibilities of healing.

In my book, Back Pain Solutions (available for free from my website: I survey much of the evidence presented in Kolata's article and present another way of looking at the research findings.

See in particular my Chapter 2-Back Pain Problems There are possibilities that the conventional wisdom of the medical community has neglected.

The book has been reviewed in Physical Therapy, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Physical Therapy Association. I also sent review copies of the book to a number of well-respected experts in physical medicine and physical therapy. As yet no one has refuted my criticism of back pain research, how it gets interpreted, and the resulting leap into futility reported in the NY Times article.

I invite weblog readers to read Chapter 2 and to give me their comments.What kind of results have you found in dealing with back pain and other related problems? Have you discovered some ways to get beyond the fatalism?

Remember, statistical research only goes so far. It does not cover the particularities of any individual. And what one individual finds may have relevance for others. Fatalism and futility are not necessary.

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10 Feb 2004 @ 17:05 by b : From personal experience
I have had bad back problems and have managed to heal. After a lifetime of physical derring do one day about ten years ago I ducked under a hanging plant to open a sliding door and couldn't get back up. I remained bent in pain and did not have the capability to straigten up to my full height. For two days I tried to rest and heal to no avail. Finaly, I went to a chiropractor. Heat treatments, then electricity through my back for hours relaxed me somewhat. Then the Dr. came and slowly began going over the out points in my body that stood out from the xrays making adjustments. It took two weeks of several hours treatment everyday for everything to be aligned. I could stand up straight. I could even bend over and touch my toes and stand back up. I learned a great deal about "pain being the tip of the iceberg" I learned a lot about body maintenance. I began steady walking for a mile or so several times a week. I started stretching and doing some calisthentics every morning. I drink enough water daily so as not to become dehydrated. I learned that when I did feel the back pain to immediately take an over the counter pain remedy that diminshed the pain before it started to inflame. So I have been able to control this and have not suffered a reoccurance in a long time.  

10 Feb 2004 @ 19:18 by Bruce @ : Self-Management
Bbee, you found that a number of different measures helped you to recover and then have helped you to maintain good function and a relatively painfree existence. So obviously even a severe problem is not hopeless. I think that other people can find your experience useful. Bravo for your ability to find some solutions. And thanks for your input.  

13 Feb 2004 @ 14:39 by b : Like any problem Bruce
I think that you have to look at the problem and what opposes it. As in a back injury it takes focus on each of the outnesses and what will put them back in line. Then one at a time change, always keeping in mind that surgery is the most radical change. Nothing is futile that is productive.  

16 Feb 2004 @ 17:16 by jmarc : I made it to page 40
and bookmarked it for when i get some more reading time. This looks like a good resource for me to work on my back problems. I fell 3 stories about 20 years ago and haven't been the same since. Rest helps, but you are right, too much bed rest is not good. i'll let you know if the book helps me.  

16 Feb 2004 @ 18:03 by vibrani : Jmarc
yikes! Sorry to hear about your fall and that you haven't been the same since.  

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