Treating back pain is multibillion-dollar business with no returns

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Washington, Feb 13 (UNI) What is that one medical expense that soars every year without making its patients feel any better? Its the cost of treating back pain.

A new study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association says so.

The study by health policy researchers at the University of Washington estimated the cost of treating back pain by using data from an annual federal survey of 23,000 people.

This new study had a broad spectrum to examine whether overall spending on back treatments is making the patients feel better.

Treating back pain has become a multibillion-dollar business.

The number of lumbar fusions, one common operation, has become three fold from 1990 to 2001. Other studies have reported increase in rates of spine imaging and various spinal injections.

The study found that people with spine problems in 2005 spent 2,500 dollars more in medical expenses than those without such problems compared to a difference of 2,000 dollars in 1997.

Overall costs of treating back pain has gone up by 65 per cent from 1997 to 2005 to an estimated 85.9 dollar billion nationally.

Interestingly, one of the biggest drivers of spending figured out to be a 43 per cent increased use of expensive painkillers.

The reasearchers also looked at whether all that spending was making patients fell any better and found no improvement in the span of eight-year period.

''We are putting a lot more money into this problem and not seeing any improvement in health,'' says University of Washington healthy policy expert Brook Martin, who led the study.

The study also suggests that there may be lots of treatments that are being overused with no benefit to patients.

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