Just Say No
Nearly twenty years ago international researchers agreed that spine surgery should not be considered until there had been initially a trial of conservative care but, for the most part, this advice has been ignored.,,,
Ironically, the original two spine surgeons who promulgated the abnormal disc theory, WJ Mixter, MD, and JS Barr, MD, from the Massachusetts General Hospital, also recommended conservative care before surgery.
Say No to Discs
The paradigm shift away from the abnormal disc theory in spine diagnosis began in 1990 when research by Scott Boden, MD, found no clear correlation between disc abnormalities and back pain.
Richard Deyo, MD, MPH, noted this misleading disc theory has led to “false positive” misdiagnosis, suggesting that “many of these abnormalities are trivial, harmless, and irrelevant, so they have been recently dubbed incidentalomas,” and “they are likely to lead to more tests, patient anxiety, and perhaps even unnecessary surgery.” 
Both the North American Spine Society and American Society of Spine Radiology now admit the term ‘bulging disc’ should only be used as a descriptive term, not a diagnostic term. In 2011, North Carolina Blue Cross/Blue Shield announced it will no longer pay for spine fusion if the sole criterion is an abnormal disc.
Say No to MRIs
Evidence-based medicine now questions whether or not scans are necessary in light of the ubiquitous nature of disc abnormalities. Deyo cites the huge 307% increase of CT and MRI scans and estimates “one-third to two-thirds…may be inappropriate.”
A 2009 Stanford University study confirmed that patients in areas with more MRI scanners are more likely to undergo spine surgery. Indisputably, MRI scans are used essentially as selling points to gullible patients and have greatly increased the number of unnecessary disc surgeries.
Say No to Surgery
According to Trang Nguyen, MD, fusion surgeries are “associated with significant increase in disability, opiate use, prolonged work loss, and poor return to work status.” 
The rise of drugs, shots, and surgery is shocking. From 1994 to 2007, spinal fusion surgery increased 204%, spinal injections increased 629%, and opiate use increased 423%. The most complex type of back surgery had increased 15-fold.
Deyo openly admits that too many people are getting risky and expensive back surgery when more minimal approaches would work. He mentioned one strong motivation included “financial incentives involving both surgeons and hospitals.” Deyo pulled no punches when he said, “More people are interested in getting on the gravy train than on stopping the gravy train.”
Robert J. Barth believes “pain management does not accomplish anything but getting the patient addicted.” Nonetheless, it is among the fastest growing segments in medicine today considering that one injection costs $1,000.
Pain clinics have also added to the “hillbilly heroin” epidemic. In 2010, American pharmacists dispensed over 101 tons of opioids like pure oxycodone and hydrocodone—equivalent to 40 5-mg Percocets and 24 5-mg Vicodins for every US resident that caused 14,800 deaths and untold addictions, including to the unborn.
The number of babies born dependent on prescription painkillers like Oxycotin tripled in the last decade along with higher costs to treat their withdrawal symptoms.
The long term impact is now emerging that morphine can cause regional neuroplastic changes in the human brain after only one month of daily administration. There is also no evidence yet that these changes reverse, creating difficulty in full recovery after cessation.
Say No to PCPs
Primary care physicians are typically inept in their training on musculoskeletal disorders, prone to ignore recent guidelines, and more likely to suggest spine surgery than surgeons themselves.
According to Boden, “Many, if not most, primary care providers have little training in how to manage musculoskeletal disorders.”
Biased physicians also suffer from “professional amnesia” when they fail to inform patients that chiropractic care is a recommended option to medical methods.
Paradigm Shift from Discs to Joints
While the medical model of back pain remains focused on static pathoanatomical disc and arthritic issues, the chiropractic model and justification for manipulation focuses on dynamic pathophysiological issues. In other words, chiropractors believe it is more important how the spine functions than how it looks on an image.
Unbeknownst to most MDs, the total vertebral and pelvic joints number 313, which include all synovial, symphysis, and syndesmosis joints according to Gregory D. Cramer, DC, PhD. Foremost from this “joints” perspective, back pain constitutes a “joint complex dysfunction” according to David R. Seaman, MS, DC, and James F. Winterstein, DC., As well, Jay Triano, DC, PhD, suggests a “segmental buckling effect.” In this light, certainly the adjustment of spinal joints is the logical initial treatment.
The evidence for chiropractic care is mounting. A 1998 editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine noted that “spinal manipulation is the treatment of choice.” In 2007 a Joint Clinical Practice Guideline for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Low Back Pain also recommended spinal manipulation for acute, sub-acute, or chronic low back pain.  Surprisingly, the North American Spine Society also recommends spinal manipulation before surgery.
So, how should we consider those “inept” MDs who refuse to refer to DCs, but still prescribe addictive narcotics, epidural steroid injections that are no more effective than placebo, and do hundreds of thousands of expensive MRIs and spine surgeries based on the disproved disc theory?
Quacks or criminals?
This is the real dilemma in evidence-based spine care today.
Deyo commented on this dilemma: “…we’ve witnessed disturbing practices that seem designed to maximize someone’s income, regardless of whether there was benefit or harm to patients.”
Now we can understand why Gordon Waddell, MD, once said:
“Low back pain has been a 20th century health care disaster. Medical care certainly has not solved the everyday symptom of low back pain and even may be reinforcing and exacerbating the problem…It [back surgery] has been accused of leaving more tragic human wreckage in its wake than any other operation in history.”
Certainly any investigation must conclude medical spine care is economic-based, not evidence-based nor ethics-based.
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