Experts Say Drugs, X-Rays, Scans And Surgery Are Unnecessary For Back Pain

Call for action

Experts Say Drugs, X-Rays, Scans And Surgery Are Unnecessary For Back Pain Pexels

Australian experts are leading an international call to action to stop the soaring rates of low back pain. 

Researchers warn the burden of low back pain is at "tipping point" and the current use of X-rays and scans, opioids, injections and surgery to investigate and treat the condition is useless, unnecessary and harmful.

It's estimated that at any one time more than 540 million people are affected by activity-limiting low back pain and it's the most common disability in the world. 

Instead of focusing on treatment and management, prevention must be a priority in order to lessen the burden of low back pain, says lead author, Professor Rachelle Buchbinder at Monash University.

"Back pain disability globally has increased by 54 per cent between 1990 and 2015 and its getting worse and its getting worse due to the ageing population as well as the increased size of the population," said Prof Buchbinder.

University of Sydney author Professor Chris Maher said millions of people across the world are getting the wrong care for low back pain.

“More care does not mean better care. More aggressive treatments for low back pain have little proven benefit and have the potential to make things significantly worse for patients.

“Evidence suggests that low back pain should be managed in primary care, with the first line of   treatment being education and advice to keep active and at work.

“However, in reality, a high proportion of patients worldwide are treated in emergency departments, encouraged to rest and stop work, are commonly referred for scans or surgery, or prescribed pain killers including opioids, which are discouraged for treating low back pain.”

She's calling for programmes to tackle obesity and low levels of physical activity to help reduce the affects in daily life. 

She said staying active, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight are key to managing back pain.