Should Back Pain Be Ignored?

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Should Back Pain Be Ignored?

Low back pain (LBP) has become such a common problem that experts call it a national crisis. Most of the time, LBP goes away by itself. One proposed solution to this crisis is to ignore it. This concept is called demedicalization.

Demedicalization of LBP could reduce health care costs and decrease disability. It could get rid of unnecessary medical care for millions of potential patients.

At the same time that demedicalization was proposed, the American Pain Society advised paying more attention to pain and treating it right away. They say pain relief is a basic human right. Patients deserve to have their pain treated.

Debate on the issue of ignore-versus-treat LBP continues. There may be some people who should always be offered treatment. Cancer patients, postoperative pain, and end-of-life pain would qualify for treatment. On the other hand, treatment of pain may not be advised for chronic pain, especially pain that comes and goes.

Before a final decision can be made, the following questions need to be answered:

  • Is pain an important and valuable warning symptom or a disease itself?
  • How much pain is okay or acceptable?
  • Can treatment really change or improve pain, especially chronic pain?
  • When does someone with pain move from being well to ill?

    Careful scientific study is needed before treating all LBP patients. Studies should include people who routinely seek medical treatment for pain and those who choose to cope on their own.

    The BACK Letter. September 2006. Vol. 21. No. 9. Pp. 97-104.

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