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Why most back pain treatments fail

Unless your lower back pain is a result of a sudden traumatic accident or hereditary disease, chances are you were developing it for a very long time. Sedentary work, or heavy manual handling, bad nutrition, dehydration and lack of exercise, or, on the contrary, intensive training without sufficient rest – all of these are the factors that over years would be responsible for you developing the lower back pain.

For instance, in cases with intervertebral disc pathology (slipped, bulging, herniated disc, and the likes), it takes on average between seven to ten years between the first back pain episode when the spinal segment becomes ‘stiff’ (small intervertebral muscles like multifidus and rotatores going into spasm) and the time when the person develops the disease and starts suffering with the reccurent severe back pain.

Needless to say, that a lot can be done to completely reverse the condition from developing in these 7 – 10 years of occasional mild to moderate discomfort in the lower back. It doesn't have to go all the way to having your discs herniated and removed in the, with the metal screws and rods drilled into your vertebrae to fuse the dysfunctional spinal segment. However, we wait until the pain is unbearable before we seek professional help…

When you have back pain, many spinal care specialists stand by offering their help. Medical doctors, neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons, chiropractors, physiotherapists, and osteopaths. Even acupuncturists and Reiki practitioners are trying their luck in treating spinal conditions, where acupuncturists do sometimes achieve a temporary pain relief, and Reiki…is just Reiki – no one can explain what is it they are trying to do, not even themselves…

For some back-pain sufferers, these professionals may prove helpful, but for a surprisingly high number of others, specialists only ease pain—or maybe eliminate it temporarily—without solving the underlying causes of that pain. Some people, no matter what specialist they go to, or even if they use a combination of two or more, have recurring pain.

In the meantime they may suffer unnecessarily, through multiple surgeries, injections, and prescription drug use (which can increase stress on the body), to say nothing of the drain on a bank account and the strain placed on the spirit.

So, why do people keep going to these professionals if they’re not helping?

Probably because their treatments help a little. They can ease pain, loosen tight muscles, and even right a postural dysfunction—for a short time.

WHY DIDN’T MY DOCTOR TELL ME ABOUT THIS?

You may be wondering why your doctor never told you about muscle imbalances, trigger points, therapeutic postural correction, functional spinal decompression, and intervertebral disc restoration methods. The things that are familiar to most (good) physical and sports therapists, yoga and Pilates instructors, and (good) personal trainers? Certainly he or she is an educated person. Do doctors not know about these things? And how can that be?

The fact is, in most “western” countries, the medical schools tend to focus on treating the symptoms, and the solutions they favour usually include pharmaceuticals or surgery. They focus primarily on treating the symptoms of pain, not the postural and muscular imbalances in sufferer’s body that created them.

If you suffer a heart attack, for instance, because of a blocked artery, doctors will focus on opening that artery (either with surgery or medication) and give no attention to why the artery became blocked in the first place. Then, to help you avoid another blocked artery, they’ll prescribe drugs, rather than investigate the “why” behind your condition.

Most of our medical professionals work very hard for their credentials, and they tend to work equally as hard in their practices. It takes an enormous amount of time and effort just to stay current with all the advances in the medical world, including new drugs, new treatments, and new technologies. That deviates them further and further away from being able to open their eyes and see the problem for what it usually is: the postural deviation caused by the muscles’ imbalances, caused by a ‘posture-unfriendly’ lifestyle and environment.

Of course we need to mention here the enormous time management pressure the insurance companies put on doctors. In Ireland for example, doctor has an average of 6 minutes to make you feel better—and a few minutes are nowhere near enough to identify the underlying causes of your pain, let alone develop a comprehensive treatment plan. Let that sink in for a minute – 6 minutes… He or she didn’t even hear you out to the end, but already is writing a prescription!

In the meantime, as any profit-driven organization, pharmaceutical companies are creating billions of dollars’ worth of profit each year, and so the focus is not on prevention, but instead on how to sell more drugs and what new drugs can be developed. And while the typical doctor’s visit isn’t long enough to really solve a back-pain problem, it is long enough to prescribe the latest and greatest pill—a pill that may temporarily reduce pain but doesn’t get rid of the underlying causes of the pain, and that is typically not without serious negative side effects.

It isn’t hard to see how this sets up a vicious cycle. When the underlying causes of back pain aren’t addressed, you end up right back in the doctor’s office a few months later with the exact same problem you had previously. And the whole process repeats itself.

The drug companies continue to make money with each back-pain episode you experience. In a misguided attempt to save money, insurance companies feel like they’ve succeeded because they’ve kept doctors’ visits very brief—so they can pay them less. Of course, when you don’t actually solve what’s causing your back pain, you end up having to go back to your doctor repeatedly. This costs insurance companies more in the long run, but they’re so used to thinking about short-term profits that they often don’t look at it from any other perspective.

Keep in mind that muscle imbalances and postural misalignments are not technically diseases. Most doctors and the medical schools that train them focus only on eliminating diseases. And since most forms of back pain aren’t technically diseases, many medical doctors aren’t familiar with many non-surgical and non-pharmaceutical approaches.

The bottom line is this: regardless of your condition, you will be prescribed drugs (pain-killers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), when different combinations of medicines stop working, you’ll be referred for epidural injections which may (or may not, the success rate is 50%) give you a relief for 5 to 6 months.

That can only happen two or three times, since cortico-steroids have detrimental effect on the tissues surrounding the injection site. After that…surgery, screws, rods, more drugs, and the next spinal segment breaks down in 1,5 to 2,5 years, causing you even worse pain since the primary problem still haven’t been solved. And the vicious cycle repeats itself…


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