Book exposes ‘crooked’ back pain industry

INJECTIONS, surgeries, chiropractic "adjustments" and addictive painkillers.

Charlatans and snake-oil salesmen preying on the desperation of millions of back pain sufferers have grown into a $132 billion industry in the United States alone, an explosive new book claims.

Written by veteran investigative journalist and back pain sufferer Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery, highlights how traditional treatments such as chiropractic, surgery and injections are largely ineffective.

Ramin argues the psychological impact of back pain, which will affect up to 90% of people at some point in their lives, is so severe that people are compelled to pursue any possibility of relief.

But in the vast majority of cases, the simple solution to back pain is to keep moving.

"When you're in pain, you're in no position to ask a lot of questions," Ramin told CBC.

"Most people who are in chronic pain are having a lot of problems. They are often unable to work, they have issues at home. They're desperate.

"People feel extremely lonely and frustrated and angry. Isolation is a major factor in making things worse because when you can no longer feel like it's safe to go out, you start to really sit there and obsess about your pain and your situation."


"You might as well skip the surgery and go straight to the rehab," she said.

While patients spend about $53 billion ($US40 billion) a year on spinal fusion, the success rate is just 35%.

In a poll of 100 surgeons, 99 said they would "absolutely not" have lumbar fusion surgery if it was recommended to them.

Ramin told Quartz consumers were easily influenced by unscrupulous spine centres.

"When they go see his surgeon and the surgeon says, 'I'm sorry I can't help you this. There's nothing I can do for you,' the tendency is to misunderstand that, and to think 'You're not smart enough. You're not good enough, you don't have the right hi-tech whiz-bang tools and I need to keep looking, I need to find someone who is smart enough to do this.'" she said.

The book also accuses the pharmaceutical industry exploiting back pain to overprescribe highly addictive drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin, fuelling America's opioid addiction crisis.

"For decades, physicians had recognised that opioids were highly addictive drugs, and that to prescribe them to any patients other than those who suffered from terminal cancer was illegal," Ramin writes in the book.

"But with Oxy, the tide had turned: suddenly, physicians who allowed patients to 'suffer needlessly' from back pain were labelled as lacking in compassion.

"For general practitioners, who found themselves with 'failed' back surgery patients entrusted to their care, OxyContin offered an answer to their prayers."

News Corp Australia

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