Chronic Pain — 04 August 2013

By Pat Anson, Editor

Doctors who treat back pain are prescribing more narcotic painkillers, making more referrals to specialists and ordering more expensive diagnostic tests, according to a new report published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers and patient advocates say the trend is not only increasing the cost of healthcare, but in some cases harming patients.

“Back pain treatment is costly and frequently includes overuse of treatments that are unsupported by clinical guidelines,” said lead author John Mafi, MD, of Harvard Medical School.

Mafi and his colleagues studied nearly 24,000 visits by patients who saw their doctors for back pain between 1999 and 2010. During that period, they found that physicians were increasingly less likely to follow established clinical guidelines for treating back pain, which is one of the most common reasons patients visit a doctor.

“Despite numerous published national guidelines, management of routine back pain increasingly has relied on advanced diagnostic imaging, referrals to other physicians, and use of narcotics, with a concomitant decrease in NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or acetaminophen use,” Mafi said.

Read more at National Pain Report.

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About Author

Pat Anson, Editor

Pat is Editor in Chief of American News Report. He is a veteran journalist and a former correspondent and producer for HealthWeek (PBS), Nightly Business Report (PBS) and other nationally syndicated shows. Pat has won numerous journalism awards, including a Golden Mike award for investigative reporting.

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