THE REASON MOST PEOPLE WITH BACK PAIN DON’T GET BETTER IN OUR HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
by onsite, September 5, 2016
The statistics on the number of people suffering back pain in America are staggering. What’s even more disheartening is that even though technology has advanced and research has progressed, the percentage of people suffering with back pain continues to grow. The fact is that the manner in which our healthcare system handles patients with back pain IS NOT WORKING. In this article I will explain EXACTLY what patients with back pain should do to save time, money, and get the type of care that they deserve.
First, let’s look at a very common scenario, involving the path an individual with back pain goes through in our current healthcare system. This example will give a step-by-step look at what this patient did to try and get back pain relief. Unfortunately, the process this patient went through is one that I have seen thousands of patients go through over the past several years. A process that is largely driven by insurance companies, time constraints, and monetary reimbursement issues… NOT BY WHAT THE PATIENT NEEDS OR WHAT IS BEST FOR THEM.
Dave is a recent patient of mine that came asking for help with his back pain. He had been suffering for over five years. Here is his story.
After noticing increasing back pain over about a four-month period, Dave finally decided to go see his general practitioner. Dave’s trusted family doctor gave him some muscle relaxers and steroid medications. These helped masque the pain for about six months, but did not fix the cause of the problem. Six months down the road Dave’s pain was now much more severe, and he went back to his general practitioner who this time referred him out to an orthopedic specialist. The specialist did an MRI and told Dave that he had “Spinal Stenosis,” “Degenerative Joint Disease,” and numerous “Disc Herniations” in his low back. The orthopedic specialist then injected his low back in several places with a strong steroid (cortisone).
Dave again got relief for several months, but then again his back pain flared up after driving home from vacation nearly eight hours in the car. Dave decided to go back to his orthopedic surgeon, who injected him with cortisone once again, and FINALLY referred him to physical therapy. Not knowing any better, Dave went to the physical therapy clinic affiliated with the hospital system his Orthopedic Specialist worked within. Dave went to therapy 2-3x/week which cost him over $100 per week. His therapy sessions consisted of spending 10-15 minutes on a stationary bike, doing some very basic exercises with an assistant who was also working with several other patients during his session, and ended the 45-minute treatment with heat and electric stimulation. Dave did this for five weeks, during which time he reported a minimal 10-20% improvement in his back symptoms.
Dave then attempted working with a chiropractor. He went to the chiropractor 1x/week for 3 months. Dave received adjustments followed by heat and electric stimulation treatments during these 30-minute sessions. He typically felt some relief for a few hours or maybe a day after the adjustments, but noticed no long term changes. He reported that the longer the saw the chiropractor, the less the adjustments seemed to help.
It had now been over five years, Dave had spent over 3 thousand dollars on treatment for his back, and his pain was worse than it was when he first went to the doctor five years ago. FINALLY, Dave showed up at our clinic. He was on the cusp of going in for back surgery when one of his friends recommended he try working with us at OnSite-PT. It was obvious that Dave was skeptical at first, he had basically seen every medical professional that dealt with back pain, getting minimal improvement in symptoms.
We spent over an hour during his first session just talking about his pain and types of activities that were limited. We identified exactly how we could help Dave, and gave him very specific instructions with step by step videos of how to perform daily home exercises. We were able to do any treatment that we deemed appropriate without limitations placed by Dave’s insurance company because of the Out-of-Network Cash Pay model we were using. Dave was blown away by the amount of time I as the doctor of physical therapy was spending with him each 60-75-minute session. We were performing hands-on treatments that he had never received before, and direct specific exercises customized to meet his individual movement limitations. After five treatment sessions over a 25-day period Dave’s symptoms were 80% improved. He was back to working all day with 1/10 low back pain, and even joined a softball league.
We did not do anything “out of this world,” or “magical” with Dave. We simply listened to him, spent time with him, and gave him a lot of attention and focus. We were also able to perform treatments immediately when we felt it was the most appropriate, without having to ask the insurance company if they accepted a specific type of treatment. The problem is that Dave, like most other people suffering back pain, never knew there was a better option. He went through the same rabbit hole that over 90% of people with back pain are traveling down. This is a path filled with unnecessary tests, irrelevant doctor visits, and treatment sessions with restrictions placed by insurance. Dave wasted over five years of his life suffering with pain and activity limitations nearly every single day.
If this scenario describes you or someone you know/love, please urge them to sign up for a free pain evaluation or movement assessment today. There is a path to an active and healthy life with less back pain…let us at OnSite-PT guide you there.