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CF 057: What Is Contributing To Low Back Pain And More Opioid Bashing

CF 057: What Is Contributing To Low Back Pain And More Opioid Bashing

Today we’re going to talk about What Is Contributing To Low Back Pain And More Opioid Bashing from us. We hate them and they don’t do any good anyway so why did 72,000 people have to die at their hands last year in America?

But first, here’s that bumper music.

Integrating Chiropractors

OK, we are back. Welcome to the podcast today, I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast.  

You have fumbled your way into Episode #57

Junk I Say

Let’s first talk a bit about junk I say. I drive myself crazy and here’s why; I get flustered sometimes. I don’t know why. Honestly, I’d like to eventually go on the speaking circuit but I think I’ll be terrible at it. Lol. I get flustered. 

I always listen to the episodes after they post. For a couple of reasons but it’s kind of like why a football team will watch game tape the day and week after a game. I do the same thing. I want to identify where I can improve and how I can make myself and the show better from week to week. 

Well, I invariably catch myself saying stuff that makes no sense. Like in the recent episode where I discussed the lack of research for lumbar fusion, I referred to an orthopedic surgeon as an osteopath. What? Trust me…..I know the damn difference so things like that make me want to punch myself in the nose a little. 

Another is that, without thinking, I’ve been calling it the diplomate of American chiropractic orthopedists. Yeah….that’s not what it is and I know that. Lol. It’s the Diplomate of the Academy of Chiropractic Orthopedists and those folks can be a member of the American Chiropractic Orthopedists. You see the confusion, right?

Anyway….I’m not a dummy people. Well, most days anyway. I still have my brain farts but I’m usually fairly put together. Or at least I like to think I am. Reminds me of a comedian I heard when I was a kid. He said, “I may look dumb, but that doesn’t mean I’m not!” Yeah….so you just think about that for a bit. 

The DACO

Speaking of the DACO program, “What’s the latest?”, you may ask. To that I would answer that a lot is going on actually. I slowed down for a bit but picked it back up during the holidays with the spare time I had. 

More communication drills including ideas and instruction on how to tactfully disagree with our medical counterparts. For instance, if they diagnose a patient with a disc and we are CERTAIN it’s an SI, how are you going to let them down softly and keep them from going away mad ala Motley Crue…girl….don’t go away mad. Just go away. 

You know we all have egos and you know damn well that “king ego” exists in the medical world. How do you tell those people they’re at odds with the research? I’m afraid there are some of them that would rather be wrong than be corrected. 

How do you tell them that they diagnosed a tension-type headache when, in reality, the symptoms are more in line with a cervicogenic headache? And then, how do you tell a GP that probably doesn’t like cervical manipulation that you recommend just that?

Things that make you go “Hmmmm….”

At the end of each of the Communication Drills, they give you a script to help you in the future should the need pop up for you to artfully and tactfully slap around Mr. King Ego without them really knowing you payahed them across the face with a glove. 

Short Show 

Alright, it’s a crazy week. I’m trying to close out 2018 as far as stats go and all that good stuff so this episode ain’t gonna be a big one. 

Before we get to it though, I want to ask you to go to chiropracticforward.com and sign up for our newsletter. It’s just an email. We’ll send you one once a week when a new episode pops up and, if we have something cool to tell you about, I’ll include it in that email. No extra emails. Don’t be so stingy with that damn email address. 

Don’t be like a college kid with the last piece of pizza. Don’t be that kid. 

Onto the Research

Let’s get to the goodies, folks. Let’s start with this one from BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders by Shanthi Ramanathan, Peter Hibbert, Louise Wiles, Christopher Maher, and William Runicman called “What is the association between the presence of comorbidities and the appropriateness of care for low back pain? A population-based medical record review study[1].”

 

First thing here is that Chris Maher is a busy guy, y’all. Seriously. He is a Physical Therapist and I believe lives in Australia if I remember correctly. He was on a paper we discussed recently having to do with lumbar fusion as well as being on The Lancet series of papers for low back pain. He’s a mover and shaker

Why They Did It

Knowing that low back pain is non-specific in 90% of cases, low back pain is treated as an independent entity even though we know other conditions exist with it or contribute to it. What comorbidities? Things like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, etc…

What They Found

One hundred and sixty-four LBP patients were included in the analysis. Over 60% of adults with LBP in Australia had one of 17 comorbidities documented, with females being more likely than males to have comorbid conditions.

Wrap Up

This study established that the presence of comorbidities is associated with poorer care for LBP. Understanding why this is so is an important direction for future research.

Paper #2

Onward we march…. This one is called “Chiropractors’ views on the use of patient-reported outcome measures in clinical practice; a qualitative study.” It was written with Michelle Holmes as the lead author followed by Felicity Bishop, David Newell, Jonathan Field, and George Lewith and it was published in Chiropractic and Manual Therapies in December of 2018[2]. 

I know you people like the new stuff. 

Why They Did It

Patient-reported outcome measures (also known as OATS in my office and probably your office as well. OATS meaning Outcome Assessments)

Anyway, OATS are widely available for use in musculoskeletal care there’s not much research exploring the implementation of OATS in clinical practice. They wanted to see what chiropractors’ views were on OATS to identify any barriers and facilitators to implementing OATS in chiropractic care.

What They Found

“Chiropractors are increasingly using OATS in their clinical practice. The aim of this qualitative study was to examine the views of chiropractors on using OATS. Exploring chiropractors’ experience of using OATS, this study identified how clinician knowledge and engagement and organizational barriers and facilitators affect implementing OATS in chiropractic care, such as choosing the appropriate OATS and systems to use in their practice. Chiropractors also identified possible training needs of chiropractors regarding OATS, with training including the process and benefits of using OATS in clinical practice.”

Opioids

Now, in our “beating a dead horse” segment, let’s bash the hell out of opioids, shall we? Well, don’t mind if I do!

This one is by Jason Busse, a Chiropractor by the way, and associate professor in the department of anesthesia at McMaster University’s school of medicine in Ontario, Canada……. Canada has it going on, folks. Seriously.

Here’s a chiropractor in the department of anesthesia at a school of medicine. We need to get that guy on our podcast don’t you think?

The paper was also written by Li Wang, Ph.D., and Mostafa Kamaleldin. Easy for you to say. 

It’s called “Opioids for Chronic Noncancer Pain; A systematic review and meta-analysis[3]” and appeared in JAMA in December of 2018. 

Why They Did It

They wanted to find out if the use of opioids to treat chronic noncancer pain was associated with greater benefits or harms compared with placebo and alternative analgesics.

Wrap It Up

In this meta-analysis of RCTs of patients with chronic noncancer pain, evidence from high-quality studies showed that opioid use was associated with statistically significant but small improvements in pain and physical functioning, and increased risk of vomiting compared with placebo. Comparisons of opioids with nonopioid alternatives suggested that the benefit for pain and functioning may be similar, although the evidence was from studies of only low to moderate quality.

CNN’s Spin 

CNN actually did an article by Michael Nedelman[4], on this paper where they get a little deeper saying the following, “For adults with chronic pain, opioids offer narrow improvements over placebo for pain and physical functioning, on average, according to a new analysis published Tuesday. And the majority of patients will experience no meaningful benefit.”

Subgroups of the studies included in the analysis suggest that non-opioid alternatives — such as NSAIDs, certain antidepressants and medical cannabis — may offer similar benefits to opioids on average. But the evidence for that is less strong, Busse said.

Question

Here’s my question for Dr. Busse, “Considering the fact that the American College of Physicians and The Lancet promote spinal manipulative therapy for acute and chronic low back pain as an alternative to opioids, and considering you are a chiropractor, why did your research not include spinal manipulative therapy as one of the alternative treatments?”

My guess is that maybe there were not enough randomized controlled trials comparing spinal manipulative therapy directly to opioids? I’m not sure why, to be honest. 

What We Know

But, we do know from JAMA that a current review found that spinal manipulation therapy is associated with moderate improvements in pain and function in patients with acute low back pain[5].

We know from Keeney et al that there “Reduced odds of surgery were observed for…those whose first provider was a chiropractor. 42.7% of workers [with back injuries] who first saw a surgeon had surgery, in contrast to only 1.5% of those who saw a chiropractor[6].”

From Haas et. al[7]., we know “Acute and chronic chiropractic patients experienced better outcomes in pain, functional disability, and patient satisfaction; clinically important differences in pain and disability improvement were found for chronic patients.”

There are so many others that I just don’t have the time to get into right now but, I’m certainly interested in papers comparing the two directly to each other. I bet I already know the answer and I bet you do too. 

Integrating Chiropractors

The Message

Here’s why you know the answer already……it’s because we know that when Chiropractic is at its best, you can’t beat the risk vs reward ratio because spinal pain is primarily a movement-related pain and typically responds better to movement-related treatment instead of chemical treatments like pills and shots.

When compared to the traditional medical model, research and clinical experience show that many patients get good or excellent results through chiropractic for headaches, neck pain, back pain, joint pain, to name just a few.

Chiropractic care is safe and cost-effective. It can decrease instances of surgery & disability. Chiropractors normally do this through conservative, non-surgical means with minimal time requirements or hassle to the patient.

And, if the patient develops a “preventative” mindset going forward from initial recovery, chiropractors can likely keep it that way while raising the general, overall level of health of the patient!

Key Point:

Patients should have the guarantee of having the best treatment offering the least harm.

That’s Chiropractic!

Contact

Send us an email at dr dot williams at chiropracticforward.com and let us know what you think of our show or tell us your suggestions for future episodes. Feedback and constructive criticism is a blessing and so are subscribes and excellent reviews on iTunes and other podcast services. Y’all know how this works by now so help if you don’t mind taking a few seconds to do so.

Help us get to the top of podcasts in our industry. That’s how we get the message out.

Connect

We can’t wait to connect with you again next week. From the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward.

Website

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TuneIn

About the Author & Host

Dr. Jeff Williams – Chiropractor in Amarillo, TX, Chiropractic Advocate, Author, Entrepreneur, Educator, Businessman, Marketer, and Healthcare Blogger & Vlogger

 

Bibliography

1. Ramanthan S, H.P., Wiles L, Maher C, Runicman W,, What is the association between the presence of comorbidities and the appropriateness of care for low back pain? A population-based medical record review study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord, 2018. 19(391).

2. Holmes M, B.F., Newell D, Field J, Lewith G,, Chiropractors’ views on the use of patient-reported outcome measures in clinical practice: a qualitative study. Chiropr Man Therap, 2018. 26(50).

3. Busse J, W.L., Kamaleldin M,, Opioids for Chronic Noncancer Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA, 2018. 320(23): p. 2448-2460.

4. Nedelman, M., Opioids offer little chronic pain benefit and wane over time, study says, in CNN. 2018: CNN Online.

5. Page N, Association of Spinal Manipulative Therapy With Clinical Benefit and Harm for Acute Low Back Pain. Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), 2107. 317(14): p. 1451-1460.

6. Keeney BJ, Early predictors of lumbar spine surgery after occupational back injury: results from a prospective study of workers in Washington State. Spine (Phila Pa 1976), 2013. May 15(38): p. 11.

7. Haas M, A practice-based study of patients with acute and chronic low back pain attending primary care and chiropractic physicians: two-week to 48-month follow-up. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 2004. Mar-Apr;27(3): p. 160-9.

CF 025: Vets With Low Back Pain. Usual Care + Chiropractic vs. Usual Care Alone

CF 027: WANTED – Safe, Nonpharmacological Means Of Treating Spinal Pain

CF 031: No More High Risk & Useless Drugs From Here On – Getting Off Opioids

CF 026: Chiropractic Better Than Physical Therapy and Usual Medical Care For Musculoskeletal Issues

 

 

 

CF 054: Lumbar Fusion Surgery and Its Evidence Or Lack Of

CF 054: Lumbar Fusion Surgery and Its Evidence Or Lack Of

Today we’re going to talk about a great new paper coming to us from Internal Medicine Journal on Lumbar fusion surgery and it’s evidence or lack of. What’s the word on lumbar fusion surgery? We’ll tell you.

But first, here’s that silky smooth Chiropractic Forward bumper music

Integrating Chiropractors

OK, we are back. Welcome to the podcast today, I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast.  

You have glided all fast and furiously into Episode #54 and we’re happy to have you here smokin tires and all. Kill the engine and take a chill pill, won’t you?

DACO

Let’s talk a bit about the Diplomate of the Academy of Chiropractic Orthopedics program quickly. I’m sitting at around 76 of my online hours and I have to get 250 of those. Yes, if you were wondering, it is going by slowly here lately but I’m going to have a little time this week and weekend to put the pedal to the metal and get after it. 

Some classes from this past week were migraines, migraines in children, thoracolumbar junction difficulties, and chronically injured hamstrings. 

Spelling Issues

These courses come from a group in Australia and they really take the long road when it comes to spelling. Did you guys know that? The first thing that’s crazy about the Aussies is that they use esses instead of z’s. For example, recognize is spelled with an s rather than a “z”.

When you see the word orthopedic spelled orthopaedic, it’s because of them and the English. We take the shortcuts and say, hey, recognize has a z sound in it so let’s spell it with a z. Hey, orthopedic has an e sound in the middle of it so let’s drop the dumb a since we don’t need it and let’s just spell it orthopedic. 

Here’s another one. Behavior. These goofy people spell it behaviour. They snuck in au right there at the very end of the word like they thought they were going to get away with it or something. Uh uh. Nope. We Americans don’t need the u at the end so we just end it in or. Because we’re cool and ain’t nobody got time for that crap. 

The most annoying one is probably edema or estrogen. They start both of those words with an O. Who the hell would ever spell estrogen Oestrogen? Or edema spelled oedema? That’s absolutely uncalled for and I’d appreciate them re-evaluating their use of the English language in this manner. 

Absolute ridiculosity. 

I am currently designing some really cool stuff all based in research and current evidence that I think you will all be interested in. At least I hope you are because, from what I’ve seen in researching, it’s like nothing else out there. 

Go to chiropracticforward.com right now while you’re thinking about it, just under this week’s episode, you’ll see an area where you can sign up for the newsletter. It’s only once a week and it’ll help us tell you about what we’re working on when we get it ready to go live!!

Now, let’s get to the reason for the season here. 

The is titled “Lumbar Spine Fusion: What Is The Evidence(Harris I 2018)?” and it was written by Ian Harris, Adrian Traeger, Ralph Stanford, Christopher Maher, and Rachelle Buchbinder. I recognize at least two of these names from the low back pain series published in The Lancet earlier this year. 

If you have not been through those papers, please listen to episodes #16, 17, and 18 of this Chiropractic Forward podcast for all the info you need on that. 

Basically, in this paper, they say that lumbar spinal fusion is common and associated with high cost and a risk of serious adverse events. They state that they aim to summarize systematic reviews on the effectiveness of lumbar spine fusion for most diagnoses. 

Of important note is where they say that they found NO high-quality systematic reviews and the risk of bias of the randomized controlled trials they found was generally high. For something as serious as lumbar fusion surgery. Where they cut into the body, take two vertebrae that usually aren’t unstable on each other, and then drive screws into them and affix hardware to fuse them together forever and ever amen. 

No high-quality systematic reviews for lumbar fusion surgery and the RCTs out there generally carry a high risk of bias. Great. Duly noted. Awesome. Lumbar fusion surgery

They go on to say that the available evidence doesn’t support a clinical benefit from lumbar fusion surgery compared to non-operative treatment or stabilization without fusion for thoracolumbar burst fractures. 

They say that surgical intervention for metastatic carcinoma of the spine associated with spinal cord compromise improves mobility and neurological outcome. That was based on a single trial. 

That was the high points of the abstract but let’s move in a little more and get on the micro level of this thing. 

This study takes info from Australia and, in the land down under, lumbar spine fusion is the fourth most costly surgical procedure, behind knee replacement, hip replacement, and C-sections. For a procedure with no high-quality systemic reviews. The first word that comes to mind for me here is, “Damn.”

The most common reasons used for lumbar spine fusion procedures would be intervertebral disc disease (which nearly everyone beyond 50-60yrs old has), degenerative scoliosis, and spinal canal stenosis. 

The main purpose here was to compare lumbar spinal fusion to non-operative means. Not to compare it to other surgical procedures. 

Conclusion

As part of the conclusion, the authors say, “The available evidence does not support the hypothesis that lumbar fusion surgery confers a clinical benefit compared to non‐operative alternatives for low back pain associated with degeneration. Similarly, the available evidence does not support the hypothesis that spine fusion confers a clinical benefit compared to non‐operative treatment or stabilization without fusion for thoracolumbar burst fractures. 

Benefits of lumbar fusion surgery compared to non‐operative treatment for isthmic spondylolisthesis are unclear (one trial at high risk of bias). Surgical intervention for metastatic carcinoma of the spine associated with spinal cord compromise improves mobility and neurological outcome (based on a single trial).

Ideally, lumbar fusion surgery for spondylolisthesis, burst fractures, back pain or degenerative conditions (degenerative scoliosis, spinal stenosis, recurrent disc herniation or instability), should only be performed in the context of high-quality clinical trials until the true value for each of these conditions is established. 

Until better quality evidence is available, treatment will continue to be guided by expert clinical opinion based on evidence at high risk of bias. Patients contemplating lumbar fusion surgery should be fully informed about the evidence base for their particular problem, including the relative potential benefits and harms of fusion compared with non‐operative treatments.

When Surgery Is OK

Let’s transition from that to an excellent guideline called When Surgery is OK and this comes from the legendary Dr. Stu McGill. 

To keep this episode from getting too long and out of hand, let’s hit the highlights. This is a 3-page document so we’ll shorten it to the extent that makes sense while still squeezing the good stuff out of it. Use these thoughts and ideas when deciding if surgery is indicated. 

Stu says to try the virtual surgery game and consider surgery only when it fails. Meaning pretend you had surgery today and tomorrow is the first day of recovery. It is characterized by gentle movements and activities but mostly a forced day of rest. The days following a typical post-surgical progression involves restricted activity. If this helps, no surgery at this time. 

Consider surgery when neurological issues are substantial, such as loss of bowel and bladder control. Note: that does not include radiating symptoms like sciatica, peripheral numbness, atrophy, etc….

Consider surgery in cases of trauma. When structures are unstable and need to be stabilized. 

Consider surgery only when the pain has been unrelenting and severe for a substantial period of time. Pain can be a terrible and misleading reason to get surgery. 

Select the surgeon. Dr. McGill says everyone likes to state that they had the best surgeon. He has found that asking the nurses and physical therapists at the hospital which surgeon has the best results is a wise way to go. 

Discuss the pain with the surgeon. Ask what the pain generator is and if they can cut it out. IF there are several tissues involved, chances of success are getting worse. Also if there is damage at several levels. 

Clarify what the success rate is. What does success even mean in your case? Does that mean you survived or does it mean you did OK for a bit before relapsing into pain? You want long-term success to any and all other options available. 

Beware of new treatments. That one should really go without any further discussion. Don’t be a pioneer on the patient side of surgical procedures. 

Beware of disc replacement – Dr. McGill states in this paper that he has not seen a successful case as of the writing of the article. 

Always exhaust the conservative options – He says you may believe that since you tried physical therapy and it didn’t help that only surgery remains. It just may be that the exact therapy tried was not the right one for your specific condition. 

FREE MRI Review

Beware of institutes that offer to view medical images and, with no other information, advise patients on surgery. Pictures are not linked to pain. He argues that a thorough clinical assessment is absolutely essential. I want to butt in on this one. The laser institute and orthopedic surgeons are all over the commercials on TV with this one. 

I will take this time to admit because they’re doing these free MRI reviews, I’m offering the same in my region but here’s why. It’s evidently enticing or they would not offer it and I KNOW for a fact they have a higher-paid marketing department that has decided it is indeed effective. 

That’s one of the reasons I’m doing it but the real reason is because I know that the majority of these people, if they get a free MRI review at the osteopath or the laser spine institute, they’re very likely to be lined up for surgery whereas I, after a thorough exam, will be lining them up for conservative, non-invasive therapy and I can usually keep these people from surgery and useless shots. 

There’s a difference. My free MRI review is to prevent them from surgery. Their free MRI review, in my opinion, is to QUALIFY them for surgery. 

Wrap Up

In wrapping this article or paper up, Dr. McGill says the following, “Tissues in the back become irritated with repeated loading. Consider accidentally stuffing a toe or biting the lip repeatedly – eventually, the slightest touch causes pain. This is symptom magnification because the tissues are hypersensitized. Reduction of the hypersensitivity in the toe or lip only occurs following a substantial amount of time after the accidental stub or bite has stopped.”

Dr. McGill goes on to say, “For example, people with flexion bending intolerance of the spine may replicate this every time they rise from a chair. Correcting this movement fault, metaphorically taking the hits away, results in less sensitized tissues, an increased repertoire of pain-free tasks, and a return of motion. Motion returns once the pain goes away.”

Boom. Snap. Pow. Shazam. KaBAM!! Superhero abilities via the chiropractor and ZERO surgery. How clever. 

Opinion

I don’t care what your chiropractic practice looks like. OK….I lie. As long as it doesn’t make mine look hokey or bad, then I don’t care what your practice looks like. Some are geared toward getting people out of pain. Some are geared to some wellness protocol. Some are floundering because they don’t know where they belong or exactly what they’re trying to accomplish. 

I’ll admit that, at one point in time, I was one of them. 

But, one common thread through all sorts of practices is this, we keep people from surgery. Maybe not 100% of the time but we do a hell of a job with the tools we’ve been given and I love the direction that opioids and lumbar fusion surgery failures are pushing our profession. 

Sometimes even in spite of ourselves. 

Integrating Chiropractors

The Message

I want you to know with absolute certainty that when Chiropractic is at its best, you can’t beat the risk vs reward ratio because spinal pain is primarily a movement-related pain and typically responds better to movement-related treatment instead of chemical treatments like pills and shots.

When compared to the traditional medical model, research and clinical experience show that many patients get good or excellent results through chiropractic for headaches, neck pain, back pain, joint pain, to name just a few.

Chiropractic care is safe and cost-effective. It can decrease instances of surgery & disability. Chiropractors normally do this through conservative, non-surgical means with minimal time requirements or hassle to the patient.

And, if the patient develops a “preventative” mindset going forward from initial recovery, chiropractors can likely keep it that way while raising the general, overall level of health of the patient!

Key Point:

Patients should have the guarantee of having the best treatment offering the least harm.

That’s Chiropractic!

Contact

Send us an email at dr dot williams at chiropracticforward.com and let us know what you think of our show or tell us your suggestions for future episodes. Feedback and constructive criticism is a blessing and so are subscribes and excellent reviews on iTunes and other podcast services. Y’all know how this works by now so help if you don’t mind taking a few seconds to do so.

Help us get to the top of podcasts in our industry. That’s how we get the message out.

Connect

We can’t wait to connect with you again next week. From the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward.

Website

Home

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/chiropracticforward/

Chiropractic Forward Podcast Facebook GROUP

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1938461399501889/

Twitter

YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtc-IrhlK19hWlhaOGld76Q

iTunes

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/chiropractic-forward-podcast-chiropractors-practicing/id1331554445?mt=2

Player FM Link

https://player.fm/series/2291021

Stitcher:

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-chiropractic-forward-podcast-chiropractors-practicing-through

TuneIn

About the Author & Host

Dr. Jeff Williams – Chiropractor in Amarillo, TX, Chiropractic Advocate, Author, Entrepreneur, Educator, Businessman, Marketer, and Healthcare Blogger & Vlogger

 

Bibliography

Harris I, T. A., Stanford R, (2018). “Lumbar spine fusion: what is the evidence?” Internal Med J.

 

 

CF 024: They Laughed When I Said I Could Still Help After Back Surgery

CF 020: Chiropractic Evolution or Extinction?

 

 

 

CF 024: They Laughed When I Said I Could Still Help After Back Surgery

They Laughed When I Said I Could Still Help After Back Surgery

Today, we’re going to talk about people coming into our office after having had back surgery wanting us to perform miracles. Well, why didn’t they come to us BEFORE the surgery would be my big question. We’ll toss all that stuff around today on the Chiropractic Forward Podcast. 

But first, here’s that bumper music!

OK, we are back. Welcome to the podcast today, I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast.  

Before we get started, I want to ask you to go to chiropracticforward.com and sign up for our newsletter. On another note, do you need an hour or two for your Continuing Education seminar on low back pain guidelines or on Debunking the myth that chiropractors cause strokes? 

Go no further, you have found your man. Just send me an email at dr.williams@chiropracticforward.com and we will get it done.

We are honored to have you listening. Now, here we go with some vital information that we think can build confidence and improve your practice which will improve your life overall. That’s a tall order but that is the goal

You have done the electric slide right into Episode #24 and that’s exciting

Now, as I mentioned previously, how many times do chiropractors have new patients come through the doors but they’ve already had back surgery? They’ve had back surgery they hoped would be a quick fix usually. But it wasn’t. 

Now, they’re sitting in your office, looking at you with a very scared and concerned face, and it’s up to you to lead the way and, hopefully, be able to provide them some sort of relief with your magical abilities. 

I can tell you from 20 plus years of experience that it happens all of the time. At least a time or two per month for a busy practice. That’s what I would guess. 

The truth is, sometimes we can help these back surgery people and sometimes we just can’t. I tell patients that surgery, many times, is permanent and anything we do toward trying to get some relief can be a little bit like pushing a wheelbarrow uphill. Depending on the weight in the wheelbarrow, we may get it to the top and we may not get it to the top but we’re sure as hell going to try while making sure we keep them safe from further damage. 

At first glance, when you’re looking at an x-ray of a post-surgical patient, many times I find myself thinking, “What in the heck can I possibly do with this trainwreck.” I’m sure I’m not the only one to ever feel like that. It’s a little bit of a helpless feeling sometimes. Especially when you see parts missing like you’ll see in a laminectomy. Or when you see parts added like boney fusions or fusions with hardware. I get a sinking feeling in my stomach for patients like that. Back surgery is no joke.

Especially when we know for a researched-fact that these patients most likely did not have to endure those procedures. For any reason. If you aren’t sure about that statement, please review our podcast episodes we did no The Lancet low back series. Episodes #16, #17, and #18 dealt with this very issue. 

Back surgery is gaining in popularity while the outcomes show no change. They are no longer recommending surgery for acute or chronic low back pain. Period. Sure, cauda equina syndrome, foot drop, and severe symptoms like that may indicate surgical intervention but, otherwise, they say no shots, no surgery, no bed rest, and no medications. 

We will be hammering these things consistently until we start seeing some change. I can guarantee it. 

OK, but…..what if nobody listened to the experts and they just did the surgery with no relief? Can we do anything about it? 

Let’s look at a couple of possiblities:

  1. The spine was fused years ago and now, due to the immobilization and increased workload on the segments above and below, the segments above and/or below begin to show signs of wear and tear. 
  2. The spine was not fused but the complaint never improved. This may be the case in people that have the microdiscectomies or epidural spinal injections. 

Of course there are a lot of different, very specific outcomes that don’t fit in those two categories but I’d say these are the ones I commonly see. 

Let’s take the first one: a fusion that caused issues above and below the fused segment. If you go through nonsurgical spinal decompression certification through the Kennedy Decompression Technique, you’ll be taught that a fusion with hardware is a hard contraindication. At least it was 6 years ago. 

Assuming these people develop disc issues above or below the fusion, that would mean you can’t do any decompression on the site. An orthopedic surgeon that is familiar with non-surgical decompression however, may tell you that the segment is more solid after the fusion than it ever was before and decompression won’t cause any issues with the fusion itself. 

OK, so, we’re stuck between two worlds on that and, honestly, if you’re an expert on this and you’re listening, email me at dr.williams@chiropracticforward.com and tell me your experience and understanding. 

After bouncing the problem off of several highly trusted colleagues, I think a light pull on decompression is tolerated just fine and does in fact provide relief to fusion patients. No, you cannot pull them at 1/3 or 1/2 of their body weight. We’re talking a LIGHT pull. This combined with gentle McKenzie and Core exercises as well as self-management recommendations at home will go toward getting them back on their feet and getting back after it. 

If any of you disagree, I’d love to talk about it. My first question would be, “What would the alternative be?” 

I am by no means the final and ultimate opinion on this. We have to depend on trusted advice and clinical experience, don’t we? That’s just what I do and what I’ve found is that about 80% of patients just get better. There’s about 10% that gets better but not quite what we hoped for. Then there’s that 10% that …”Hey, we tried and it looks like I’m not your homey on this deal.”

Now, what about the second option? Let’s say that they had a discetomy back surgery but it was a failure (surprise surprise) and now it’s up to us to help the patient and attempt to keep them from enduring any more back surgery or shots. What do you do? Maybe I should say, “What do WE do?”

I say adjust them!! After a certain healing time has passed, of course. 

I say we do all the other stuff I mentioned previously for them as well. We may do decmopression. We may do laser. We certainly do McKenzies, Core Building, McGill’s Big Three, no bed rest, and home self-management.

If you have paid much attention to our previous episodes then you know the American College of Physicians and the global panel of experts on low back pain that published the low back pain papers in The Lancet back in March of 2018 say that spinal mobilization is a researched and recommended first-line therapy for acute and chronic low back pain. 

In my opinion, a discetomy doesn’t change these recommendations much. Sometimes, cases are so specific, that they just don’t get researched in depth for that certain instance. 

However, I CAN offer a case study if you’re willing to listen. 

It was titled, “Chiropractic/Rehabilitative Management of Post-Surgical Disc Herniation: A Retrospective Case Report” and was published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine in the Summer edition of 2004(Estadt G 2004).  

Why They Did It

To explore management of lumbar disc herniation following sugery using a regimen of chiropractic manipulation and exercise/rehab. 

How They Did It

  • The patient was a 54 yr old male
  • The patient had a history of acute low back pain with left sciatic pain down the left posterior thigh and lateral calf as well as numbness inthe bottom of the left foot. 
  • The patient previously had steroid anti-inflammatory drugs and lumbar microdiscectomy surgery. 
  • The patient did not recover completely.
  • The patient couldn’t walk without hurting and was unable to return to activities of daily living. 
  • He was antalgic in flexion. 
  • His lumbar range of motion was restricted in flexion as well as in extension. 
  • He had a positive SLR as well as foot drop on the left. 
  • Intervention consisted of patient education on posture, bending, and lifting. 
  • Exercise/Rehab was started in-office progressing to at-home based exercise/rehab. 
  • Active rehab was continued after early improvement (7 visits) in order to return lumbar spinal extensor strength. 
  • The patient was ultimately released to home therapy and supportive chiropractic care and continued to show improvement. 

Wrap It Up

The author concluded, “Management of postsurgical lumbar disc herniation with chiropractic and active rehabilitation is discussed. Spinal deconditioning and weakness of the lumbar spinal extensor muscles appeared to be related to the patient’s symptoms. Patient education on proper posture, proper lifting techniques, core stabilization exercises, active strengthening exercise and chiropractic manipulation appeared effective in this case.”

OK, a case study with one subject. What does that tell us as far as research goes? Very little. What is the impact of the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine? It’s  peer-reviewed and it has an impact factor of 0.74 and has climbed significantly since 0.36 in 2011. 

Although this case study is only one patient’s experience, from my own anecdotal evidence, I would come very close to guaranteeing you and betting the farm that these post back surgery results can be repeated time and time again.

I’ve seen it time and time again. My experience tells me we can help these people. YOU can help these people. Back surgery doesn’t always mean we are helpless to pull out the power of chiropractic. 

I want you to know with absolute certainty that when Chiropractic is at its best, you cannot beat the risk vs reward ratio. Plain and simple. Spinal pain is a mechanical pain and responds better to mechanical treatment rather than chemical treatment such as pain killers, muscle relaxants, and anti-inflammatories.

When you look at the body of literature, it is clear: research and clinical experience shows that, in about 80%-90% of headaches, neck, and back pain, compared to the traditional medical model, patients get good to excellent results with Chiropractic. It’s safe, more cost-effective, decreases chances of surgery, and reduces chances of becoming disabled. We do this conservatively and non-surgically with minimal time requirements and hassle on the part of the patient. And, if the patient develops a “preventative” mindset going forward, we can likely keep it that way while raising the general, overall level of health! And patients have the right to the best treatment that does the least harm. THAT’S Chiropractic folks.

Please feel free to send us an email at dr dot williams at chiropracticforward.com and let us know what you think or what suggestions you may have for us for future episodes. Feedback and constructive criticism is a blessing and we want to hear from you on a range of topics so bring it on folks!

If you love what you hear, be sure to check out www.chiropracticforward.com. We want to ask you to share us with you network and help us build this podcast into the #1 Chiropractic evidence-based podcast in the world. 

We cannot wait to connect again with you next week. From Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward. 

Social Media Links

iTunes

Bibliography

Estadt G (2004). “Chiropractic/Rehabilitative Management of Post-Surgical Disc Herniation: A Retrospective Case Report.” Journal of Chiropractic Medicine 3(3): 108-115.

CF 020: Chiropractic Evolution or Extinction?

CF 008: With Dr. Craig Benton – Brand New Information Based on Results Chiropractic Proven Effective For Low Back Pain

CF 017: Pt. 2 – Review of The Lancet Article on Treatment of Low Back Pain

Review of The Lancet Article: Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions (Part Two)

On the Chiropractic Forward podcast this week, we are going continue a review of a recent paper published on low back pain that we hope will have a powerful impact in the months and years to follow. This week it will be a review of paper #2 from the Lancet series called Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions. 

Before we get started, I want to draw your attention our website at http://www.chiropracticforward.com. Just below the area where you can listen to the latest episode, you’ll see an area where you can sign up for our newsletter. I’d like to encourage you to sign up. It’s just an email about once a week to let you know when the episode is updated and what it’s about. Also, if something brand  new pops up, we’ll be able to tell you about it quickly and easily.

Welcome to the podcast today, you have strolled right into episode 17. I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast where we talk about issues related to health, chiropractic, evidence, chiropractic advocacy, and research. Thank you for taking time out of your day I know your time is valuable and I want to fill it with value so here we go.

As I mentioned at the top of the show, this week, I want to continue with the series published in The Lancet on March 21, 2018. For a quick re-cap this week…. The Lancet is one of the oldest and most respected medical journals in the world. It has been around since 1823. In addition to the credibility of the journal, this series of papers dealing with Low Back Pain, prevention of low back pain, and treatment of low back pain was compiled and authored by the leading experts on the matter globally. On top of that, the experts were a group of interdisciplinary practitioners which meant they ranged from medical doctors and PhD’s, to physical therapists and chiropractors. 

The three papers were broken down as follows:

  1. What low back pain is and why we need to pay attention.
  2. Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions.
  3. Low back pain: a call for action.

Last week, we reviewed the first of the three papers which was titled, “What low back pain is and why we need to pay attention.” We went through it note by note and section by section trying to strip away the embellishments to simply boil it down to a leisure read and, hopefully, an enjoyable learning process. 

We will do the same this week with the second paper of the series titled, “Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions.”

I want to start this week in the same way we started last week: by discussing how the papers were accomplished. 

How They Did It

For this paper, again titled “Prevention and treatment of low back pain,” the researchers identified scientific studies through searches of databases:

•MEDLINE (PubMed)

•Scopus

•Google Scholar

•African Index Medicus Database

In order to ensure a high-quality standard, systematic reviews were shown preference for inclusion.

Paper 2 Summary:

Recommendations commonly offered for those with low back pain include:

  • Pharmacologic implementation is not typically a first line choice
  • Education supporting self-management
  • Resumption of regular daily activities
  • Resumption of exercise
  • Psychological programs for those with low back pain that tends to linger
  • Limited or non-use of medication
  • Limited or non-use of imaging
  • Limited or non-use of surgery

The authors state that these recommendations for prevention and treatment of low back pain are derived from high-income countries and that they are concentrated on treatment rather than preventative recommendations. 

The authors state there is an inappropriate high usage of the following treatments for low back pain:

  • Spinal injections
  • Imaging
  • Opioids
  • Surgery
  • Rest

In the rest of the paper, the authors identify some promising directions and solutions for treatment of low back pain including the redesign of clinical pathways, an integrated health partnership, and occupational interventions to get workers back when possible.

Prevention

  • A 2016 systematic review with 30,850 adults showed that there was moderate quality evidence that exercise alone, or in combination with education, is effective for prevention of low back pain. 
  • However, the review was mainly for secondary prevention and the exercise program required an intense schedule of twenty 1-hour supervised sessions.
  • A 2014 systematic review with 2700 children that found moderate quality evidence that education is not effective. They also found that ergonomic furniture was likely no more help in preventing low back pain than regular furniture. 

Treatment

The authors cite three studies. The studies come from Denmark, the UK, and the USA. 

  • All three of the studies (Danish, UK and USA) recommend spinal manipulation as an effective treatment of low back pain. The UK study specifically recommends spinal manipulation in conjunction with an exercise protocol. 
  • As my own side note, in America, chiropractors perform 90% of all spinal manipulations. When we are discussing spinal manipulation and it’s role in treating low back pain, it is important to keep in mind which profession is the one being recommended. Although the authors do not come out and recommend chiropractic specifically, when spinal manipulations are recommended, it is a well-known fact that chiropractors are the doctors that are best-equipped to perform the treatment. 
  • Also in the US guidelines, there is a recommendations for the marked reduction of pharmacologic care. 
  • Some key advice coming from these updated recommendations (besides the use of spinal manipulation) is to assure patients they are not suffering from serious disease, that they will indeed improve in time, that they should continue as much movement and exercise as can be tolerated, they should avoid bed rest, and they should get back to work as soon as possible. 
  • The authors recommend physical treatments. Certainly for chronic low back pain which refers to pain lasting longer than 12 weeks. Physical treatments included exercise programs targeting the patients’ abilities, preferences, etc. 
  • The authors stated that passive therapies such as electric stim, interferential, traction, diathermy, and back supports seem to be ineffective. As a side note, it’s strictly anecdotal but this panel of experts are going to have a hard time convincing me traction, when done correctly, is not effective. I’ve seen patients avoid surgery from traction therapy alone.
  • They say new recommendations encourage doctors consider psychological therapies such as cognitive behavior therapies, progressive relaxation therapy, and mindfulness-based stress reduction alone or in combination with other physical and psychological treatment for chronic low back pain with or without radiculopathy having not responded to other treatments. 
  • If the condition persists and the patient is functionally disabled, the authors then recommend multidisciplinary rehab with supervised exercise, cognitive behavior, and medication. 
  • Of course, routine use of opioids is not advised.
  • Recommend no spinal epidural injections or facet joint injections for low back pain
  • Do recommend epidural injections of local anesthetic & steroid for radicular pain, however, as we have discussed before, epidural steroid injections show short-term effectiveness only if they are effective at all and have no influence at all on long-term disability or future need for surgery. In my own research, epidural steroid injections have shown to increase risk of spinal fracture up to 21% after each subsequent injection. 
  • Surgery – the benefits for spinal fusion when the back pain was thought to be due to degenerated discs were about equal to the results gained with intensive multidisciplinary rehab and only a modest improvement over non-surgical treatment. In addition, surgery has obvious downsides like expense, recovery, medication, and the risk of adverse events. However, surgery may be indicated when the patient is suffering severe or progressive neurological symptoms and surgery may be indicated when patients suffer radicular pain, have failed first line treatment, and the symptoms can be traced to via imaging to a disc or stenosis origin. 
  • Ultimately, the authors say, low back pain patients have a tendency to resolve with out without surgical intervention so waiting and trying to avoid surgery is certainly appropriate. 
  • Research dealing with low back pain in children or in low and middle income countries is limited so a lot is unknown for those categories, however, the two studies that actually have been done in low and middle income countries (Brazil and Philippines) have similar results as those in high income countries. 

The global gap between evidence and practice

This section masterfully demonstrates the difference between evidence-based medicine and what is really happening in the real world.

  • They start by stating that low back pain should be managed by primary care practitioners and then go on to list studies showing how it is being managed, in many cases, by emergency rooms, hospitals, and surgeons. 
  • Their next directive is to provide low back pain patients with education and advice on self management and then show how, in the real world, roughly only 20%-23% of practitioners seem to actually do so. 
  • The next directive is for low back pain patients to stay active and get to work or stay at work if possible. They go on to cite research showing how, in the real world, medical professionals are recommending rest and time off work. In India, for example, 46% of physiotherapists recommended rest to low back pain patients and in Brazil, rheumatologist recommended rest. 
  • The next comparison was for the guideline that imaging should only be ordered if the practitioner suspects a specific cause that would guide treatment and case management differing from normal care recommendations. In the USA, for example, from 2010-2013 the rate of imaging the low back with no red flags stayed consistent at 53.7%.  If we thought that was excessive, the authors go on to cite information from India showing 100% of chronic low back pain patients in an orthopedic clinic underwent imaging for non-specific low back pain. Similar results were found through the other studies cited for low and middle income countries. 
  • The next comparison was for the guideline that the first line treatments should be non-pharmacologic. They found that this guideline is not commonly followed citing research for high income countries demonstrating that 64.5% of low back pain patients in Australia from 2000-2010 were prescribed meds on the first visit and, on a personal note, I had a patient here in the USA just this morning with acute low back pain that was prescribed pain meds on the first day. To be fair, his pain is severe but, they are not following guidelines and the meds have had no impact on his level of pain still he continues to take them as ordered. Medication for no effect essentially. In the lower and middle-income countries, the authors cite research showing that in South Africa, 90% of the low back pain patients going to a primary care physician received medication. 
  • The next guideline was that many times, there was advice to avoid electrical physical modalities such as diathermy, etc. In the high-income setting, Swedish physiotherapists recommend transcutaneous stim for low back pain to the tune of 38%, 75% of American PTs use lumbar traction, and a Spanish National Health Service study suggested 38.6% of physical therapy costs were for treatments known to have no effectiveness.
  • The next guide comparison was that the use of opioids is discouraged. The authors go on to cite prescription rates from 2004-2009 and, to be honest, I think the opioid epidemic has likely caused the numbers cited to actually drop. Although opioid addiction is on the rise, it’s my opinion that it is now at the forefront of the national story. With the sort of attention it has demanded, I cannot imagine the numbers staying the same. That is my opinion, of course. 
  • Next guide was that surgery and interventional treatment should be very limited or possibly eliminated for low back pain. In the real world, this is not occurring. In the USA in 2011, spinal fusion was the reason for the most costs of any surgical procedure in the nation. US Medicare covered 2,023,481 epidural injections (a substantial increase from 2000-2011), 990,449 lumbar or sacral facet injections as well as 406,378 lumbar or sacral facet neurotomy treatments, Medicare funded 252,654 sacroiliac joint injections. Two-thirds of Dutch spinal surgeons perform spinal fusion surgeries. 
  • The next guide comparison was that exercise is now recommended for the treatment of chronic low back pain. A 2009 paper the authors cited showed that 54% of Americans with chronic low back pain were not prescribed any exercise as treatment. 
  • The final guide comparison was done for the recommendation that a biopsychosocial framework guide the management for low back pain patients. In the USA, only 12% of chronic low back pain patients had been treated for their diagnosed depression in the year prior and only 8.4% were recommended cognitive behavioral treatment. 

Promising Directions

Implementation of the best available evidence

The authors state here that some of the biggest issues toward implementation of new low back guidelines may be short consultation times, the practitioners having a decreased amount of knowledge on the guides, fear of being sued if missing serious pathology, and an effort to appease patients’ desires and, in my opinion, be the “good guy” in the patients’ eyes. However, the authors explain that there are some examples of successful implementation and that widespread use may be achieved through dispelling existing established practice patterns, repetition of the guides, and finding out what is the most effective and cost-effective treatments. 

The authors suggest integrated education of health-care professionals surmising that such a thing could not only educate & innovate but also break through professional barriers that exist. Professional barriers such as exist between many in the medical field and the chiropractic field. 

Clinical systems and pathways

The authors say that one solution in the treatment of low back pain could be a radical departure from current procedure and move toward a stratified primary care model known as STarT Back. This model is a two-part model with the first part consisting of a questionnaire to help the practitioner identify the patient’s risk of persistent disabling pain. The second part consists of treatments tailored to the patients level of risk according to the first part questionnaire. 

Another option along these lines would be to redesign the entire case management paths from first contact all the way through to the specialized care practitioner. They argue that a current barrier to doing this is the fact that healthcare reimbursements are currently geared toward quantity rather than quality. Two programs the authors cited for examples of promising pathways are Canada’s Saskatchewan Spine Pathway as well as NHS England’s program. 

Integrate health and occupational interventions

The authors argue in this section that healthcare and occupational health interventions need to be considered simultaneously when it comes to patients with low back pain and work disability issues. Return to work commonly happens before the absence of pain. Even hurting, people can still return to work. The authors tend to have a very strong recommendation on never leaving work or returning as quickly as possible. 

Due to very specific examples, I have admittedly glossed over this section to avoid inaccuracies and unintended generalizations. I highly encourage your reading the paper on your own time for accuracy. 

Public health interventions

In this section, the authors are discussing public relations: how to get the word out. How to change public perception of back pain and the treatment of low back pain. They cite a successful campaign in Australia that used television ads with prominent public figures serving as the spokespeople. They felt it was well-funded and was successful in part due to the proper messaging but also due to laws and public policies that supported the campaign. 

Conclusions

The authors admit that even the solutions put forth in this paper are based on relatively limited evidence. The following are quotes from the conclusion:

  • “Focusing on key principles, such as the need to reduce unnecessary health care for low back pain, support people to be active and stay at work, and reform unhelpful patient clinical pathways and reimbursement models, could guide next steps.”
  • “No single solution will be effective, and a collective, global effort will take time, determination, and organization. Without the collaborative efforts of people with low back pain, policy makers, clinicians, and researchers necessary to develop and implement effective solutions, disability rates, and expenditure for low back pain will continue to rise.”

Key Takeaways:

A paper of this size and of this magnitude, and with the level of education of contributors honestly cannot be done complete justice by a review such as this. I admittedly hit the high spots on the treatment of low back pain. I am more focused in some areas than in others. More specific for some topics and more general in others. That is the nature of a summarization and I hope I am allowed that latitude. 

If you are research minded, if you are a low back pain patient, or if you are a practitioner regularly coming in contact with low back pain patients and interested in treatment of low back pain, it is my opinion that taking the time to read these three papers yourself is of utmost importance. 

Please find the links to the papers in the “References” section and get it done. Together, we can make a big, big difference in the lives of our low back pain patients. Without a doubt. 

For this week’s next step, go register with The Lancet and get this paper for free! You just have to register. That’s it. 

Next week we will review the third and final paper of this three paper series. Next week’s paper is called “Low back pain: a call to action.” It will continue with ideas toward treatment of low back pain. We’ll go through it bit by bit and hit the highlights for those of you that aren’t into reading research papers and things of that sort. Don’t miss it!

If you love what you hear, be sure to check out https://www.chiropracticforward.com

As this podcast builds, so will the website with more content, products, and chances to learn.

 

We cannot wait to connect again with you next week. From Creek Stone, my office here in Amarillo, TX, home of the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward. 

 

Here is the link for Part One of The Lancet Review from last week:

CF 016: Review of The Lancet Article on Low Back Pain (Pt. 1)

CF 014: DEBUNKED: The Odd Myth That Chiropractors Cause Strokes (Part 2 of 3)

 

 

References:

Paper 1 – “What low back pain is and why we need to pay attention: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)30480-X/fulltext

Paper 2 “Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions.”: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)30489-6/fulltext

Paper 3 – “Low back pain: a call for action”: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)30488-4/fulltext

CF 016: Review of The Lancet Article on Low Back Pain (Pt. 1)

Low Back Pain: A Major Global Challenge

On the Chiropractic Forward podcast this week, we are going to do a review of The Lancet article on Low Back Pain. It is a recent paper published in march 2018 that we hope will have a powerful impact in the months and years to follow. 

Before we get started with this review of The Lancet article on Low Back Pain, I want to draw your attention our website at https://www.chiropracticforward.com. Just below the area where you can listen to the latest episode, you’ll see an area where you can sign up for our newsletter. I’d like to encourage you to sign up. It’s just an email about once a week to let you know when the episode is updated and what it’s about. Also, if something brand new pops up, we’ll be able to tell you about it quickly and easily.

Welcome to the podcast today, I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast where we talk about issues related to health, chiropractic, evidence, chiropractic advocacy, and research. Thank you for taking time out of your day I know your time is valuable and I want to fill it with value so here we go with some vital information that we think can build confidence and improve your practice which will improve your life overall. 

You have illegally u-turned into Episode #16 and criminals are welcome so make yourself at home. Again, we are doing a review of The Lancet article on Low Back Pain.

I’ve been battling a head cold and depending on the day, the head cold is winning. I hope you’ll excuse my graveled voice and my nasal presentation. I’ll do my best on this review of The Lancet article on Low Back Pain. 

Those of us that are hungry for new research and the recommendations that arise from the body of literature being constantly created were excited last week about the release of significant reports coming out in a highly respected research journal called The Lancet. 

Founded in 1823, The Lancet is published weekly is is one of the oldest, most respected, and most well-known medical journals in the world so when it was announced a series of papers were to be published in The Lancet having to do with low back pain, as you may imagine, those of us interested in the research world and musculoskeletal complaints were all ears. 

Not only was the article noteworthy due to its being published in The Lancet, but it was also exciting for those of us in the so-called alternative healthcare world because there were several Doctors of Chiropractic sitting on the steering committee for the series of reports. For some reason, chiropractors are still considered by many to be alternative while this group of papers suggest chiropractic may be a lot more than simply “alternative.”

There are a couple of things in my mind that stand out as reasons for such a series of papers. The first being that low back pain has become a major problem globally and show no sign of stopping the growth of it impact. The second reason would be the ineffectiveness of the treatments commonly used or recommended. This includes surgery, epidural steroid injections, and, the most notable of failed treatments, opioids.

The series of Low Back Pain papers were compiled by a team of leading experts on back pain. The team was made up of an international spectrum  of varied backgrounds. They met for a workshop in Buxton, UK, in June, 2016, to start the journey and the process of setting the outline and some sort of structure for each paper. 

It was quite an undertaking from quite the group of experts. This is not a group of papers to be ignored since these authors and researchers are among the best of the best globally. 

The papers were broken down as follows:

      1. What low back pain is and why we need to pay attention.
      2. Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions. 
      3. Low back pain: a call for action

In this article, I will cover the first of the three papers with plans to highlight the next two papers in the coming weeks so be sure to return for those important discussions. 

How They Did It

For this paper, again titled “What low back pain is and why we need to pay attention,” the researchers identified scientific studies through searches of databases:

  • MEDLINE (PubMed)
  • Scopus. 
  • Google Scholar
  • African Index Medicus Database

In this review of The Lancet article on Low Back Pain I think it’s important to re-iterate the authors assertion that, in order to ensure a high-quality standard, systematic reviews were shown preference for inclusion.

Summary of the introduction of the first paper. 

  • Low back pain is now the leading cause of disability worldwide.
  • Only a small percentage have a well-understood, definite cause for their low back pain. Examples of well-known and udnerstood causes are things like a vertebral fracture, malignancy, or infection.
  • Things that seem to raise the risk of having low back pain complaints would be populations that smoke regulary, people that have physically demanding jobs or routine jobs or jobs that keep them mostly sedentary throughout the day and throughout the work week, people with physical and mental issues that add to a low back complaint or contribute to a low back complaint, and overweight/obese people. These populations are all at risk for developing low back pain.
  • 540 million people were affected at any one time globally.
  • A systematic review (3097 participants) found several MRI findings had a reasonably strong association with low back pain, including Modic type 1 change, disc bulge, disc extrusion, and spondylolysis. To further define Modic 1 changes, in regular vertebral endplate bone, the trabeculae shoud be like a type of scaffolding. Within the trabeculae there is red bone marrow producing blood cells. In a Modic type 1, the trabeculae are fractured intermittently and the patterns are more erratic and the marrow is absent. In the marrow’s place now is serum which is the same substance one can find in a blister. 

Symptoms associated with low back pain

Radicular Pain and Radiculopathy

  • Radiculopathy is usually called sciatica and mostly occurs when there is involvement where the nerve root exits the spine.
  • The authors noted that the term sciatica is used inconsistently by doctors and the public in general and should probably be avoided all together. 
  • The diagnosis of radicular pain relies on clinical findings, such as history of dermatomal leg pain, leg pain that is actually worse than the back pain, aggravation of the symptom when bearing down such as in coughing, sneezing, lying on your back and raising heels off of the table or in going from seated to standing, and straight leg raise test. General rule of thumb for an SLR is that pain in the first 30 degrees of leg elevation hints at a disc origin since that is the movement that first starts to tension the nerve at the root.
  • Patients presenting with low back pain in addition to radicular pain or radiculopathy tend to have worse outcomes than those presenting with low back pain alone.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

  • I tell my patients that the simplest way to explain stenosis is to say that a hole that nerves run through has become smaller and, as a result, the nerves sometimes have pressure on them that can cause them to be somewhat dysfunctional. 
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis is clinically characterized by pain or discomfort with walking or standing that radiates into one or both legs and can be eased resting and almost always by lumbar flexion (neurogenic claudication). They call this the shopping cart sign. Meaning, if a person gets relief from leaning on a shopping cart, it sure may be stenosis. If it is aggravated by leaning back or by inducing a “swayback” type of movement, that sure may be stenosis. As a sidenote and from my own studies, if lumbar extension (or swayback) does not hurt, but then rotation in either direction at the endpoint of lumbar extenstion actually does increase the pain, then the patient is likely suffering from a lumbar facet complaint. 
  • Lumbar stenosis is commonly caused by narrowing of the spinal canal or intervertebral foramina as a result of a combination of degeneration such as facet osteoarthritis, ligamentum flavum hypertrophy, and bulging discs. Two or three of these factors can combine to reduce the size and space available for the neural structures to pass through. Obviously that can create issues.
  • Experts tend to agree that the diagnosis of stenosis requires both the presence of the symptoms in addition to imaging findings demonstrating stenosis.

Other causes of Low Back Pain

  • Vertebral fracture, inflammatory disorders, malignancy, infections, intra-abdominal causes.
  • The US guideline for imaging advises deferral of imaging pending a trial of therapy when there are weak risk factors for cancer or axial spondyloarthritis. What does that mean exactly? That means a trial of conservative care. The authors will delve further into this in the second paper from the Lancet series but I will butt my head in here with the opinion of the American College of Physicians. Their updated recommendations from February of 2017 reflect that doctors should be recommending Chiropractic, massage, and/or ice for acute low back pain and should recommend Chirorpactic, acupuncture, and/or exercise/rehab for chronic low back pain. These recommendations are to precede taking even ibuprofen. 

Prevalence

  • Approximately 40% of 9-18-year olds in high-income, medium-income, and low-income countries report having had low back pain.
  • Low back pain prevalence increased 54% since 1990.
  • It is the number one cause of disability globally

Work Disability

Social Identity & Inequality

  • MacNeela and colleagues reviewed 38 separate qualitative studies in high-income countries. They showed found common traits, including: worry and fear about the social consequences of chronic low back pain, hopelessness, family strain, social withdrawal, loss of job and lack of money, disappointment with health-care encounters (in particular with general practitioners), coming to terms with the pain, and learning self-management strategies.
  • Froud and colleagues reviewed 42 qualitative studies from high-income countries, and found that many people living with low back pain struggled to meet their social expectations and obligations and that achieving them might then threaten the credibility of their suffering, with disability claims being endangered. Sometimes we have to almost force low back patients back into the workforce and, did you know that studies show in general that the sooner people are returned to work, the better they tend to recover from the low back pain complaint?
  • Schofield and colleagues found that individuals who exit the workforce early as a result of their low back pain have substantially less wealth by age 65 years, even after adjustment for education. This is just an obvious statement. It makes sense that people that quit working earlier than 65 end up making less money by the time they reach 65. You can also throw the expense of dealing with a back pain complaint in on top of the loss of wages. 
  • Globally, low back pain contributes to inequality. At first, when I read this, it struck me as being silly. Everything’s about inequality these days isn’t it? Certainlly in America it seems. But, this is a little different when you read through the explanation. The authors go on to say that in low-income and middle-income countries, poverty and inequality might increase as participation in work is affected. In addition, regulations on how to properly re-introduce a person into the workforce are absent, and workers are likely to be placed right back into the job they were originally injured without proper re-introduction. The authors felt this might place more strain on family and community livelihoods.

Cost of Low Back Pain

  • Costs associated with low back pain are commonly tallied as direct medical costs, meaning the cost of the doctor’s bill. They are also tallied in terms of indirect costs; meaning the cost of being out of work and the loss of productivity at the work place.
  • Most studies underestimate the total costs of low back pain
  • Although we do not think of low back pain in these terms yet, the truth is that low back pain, in terms of a real problem as far at the cost to treat and the overall indirect costs, are right up there with the biggest issues the global pupulation faces. Issues such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental health, and autoimmune diseases. That’s huge. 
  • In the USA, 44% of the population used at least one complementary or alternative health-care therapy in 1997; and the most common reason was low back pain. with 70,000 plus chiropractors in the United States, I can tell you with some confidence the profession most associated with alternative treatment for low back pain or spinal pain of any sort is chiropractic care. 
  • The USA has the highest costs, attributable to a more medically intensive approach as well as higher rates of surgery compared with other high-income countries. We see patients every week that have gone through needless surgeries. Surgeries for which there is plenty of high-level research proving its ineffectiveness yet you see the popularity for these surgeries continuing to rise. 

Natural History

  • A systematic review (33 cohorts; 11?166 participants) provides strong evidence that most episodes of low back pain improve substantially within 6 weeks, and by 12 months average pain levels are low. However, two-thirds of patients still report some pain at 3 months and 12 months
  • The best evidence suggests around 33% of people will have a recurrence within 1 year of recovering from a previous episode.

Risk Factors and Triggers for Low Back Pain Episodes

      • A systematic review (5165 participants) found consistent evidence that people who have had previous episodes of low back pain are at increased risk of a new episode. Likewise, people with other chronic conditions, including asthma, headache, and diabetes, are more likely to report low back pain than people in good health
      • a UK cohort study found psychological distress at age 23 years predicted incident low back pain 10 years later. The Canadian National Population Health Survey with 9909 participants found that pain-free individuals with depression were more likely to develop low back pain within 2 years than were people without depression
      • systematic reviews of cohort studies indicate that lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity, and low levels of physical activity that relate to poorer general health are also associated with occurrence of low back pain episodes. We know that obesity and lack of exercise has become an American trait that needs to be reversed. 
      • A systematic review found the genetic influence on the liability to develop low back pain ranged from 21% to 67%, with the genetic component being higher for more chronic and disabling low back pain than for inconsequential low back pain.Don’t we all have patients that present to us claimng that their bad back just runs in the family? Mom and Grandma had a bad back so that must be why they have a bad back is the common sentiment. It seems there may be a bit of validity there. 
      • An Australian case-crossover study (999 participants) showed that awkward postures, heavy manual tasks, feeling tired, or being distracted during an activity were all associated with increased risk of a new episode of low back pain. Similarly, work exposures of lifting, bending, awkward postures, and tasks considered physically demanding were also associated with an increased risk of developing low back pain in low-income and middle-income countries

Psychological Factors

For this review of The Lancet article on Low Back Pain, the presence of psychological factors in people who present with low back pain is associated with increased risk of developing disability even though the mechanisms are not fully understood

Social and Societal Factors

      • Cross-sectional data from the USA (National Health Interview Survey 2009–10, 5103 people) found that those with persistent low back pain were more likely to have had less than high-school education and had an annual household income of less than US$20,000. 
      • Suggested mechanisms for the effect of low education on back pain include environmental and lifestyle exposures in lower socioeconomic groups, lower health literacy, and health care not being available or adequately targeted to people with low education.
      • To go along with lower wages, the lower socioeconomic groups are commonly in routine and manual occupations and ahve increased physical workloads is associated with disabling low back pain

Conclusion

In this review of The Lancet article on Low Back Pain, the authors concluded, “Low back pain is now the number one cause of disability globally. The burden from low back pain is increasing, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries, which is straining health-care and social systems that are already overburdened. Low back pain is most prevalent and burdensome in working populations, and in older people low back pain is associated with increased activity limitation. Most cases of low back pain are short-lasting and a specific nociceptive source cannot be identified. Recurrences are, however, common and a few people end up with persistent disabling pain affected by a range of biophysical, psychological, and social factors. Costs associated with health care and work disability attributed to low back pain are enormous but vary substantially between countries, and are related to social norms, health-care approaches, and legislation. Although there are several global initiatives to address the global burden of low back pain as a public health problem, there is a need to identify cost-effective and context-specific strategies for managing low back pain to mitigate the consequences of the current and projected future burden.”

Key Takeaway:

Obviously, if you followed us all the way through on this review of The Lancet article on Low Back Pain, low back pain is an issue that must be addressed in a more effective way globally and irregardless of national ranking in terms of the economy. Just because it’s musculoskeletal doesn’t mean it can be ignored and kicked to the curb while the big stuff like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are treated. The research for the big stuff is adequately funded but, honestly, in general, most general practitioners don’t have the first clue of what to do for low back pain. I personally suggest they turn to their own American College of Physicians for updated recommendations on chronic and acute low back conditions if I were them. 

Authors

Steering Committee

Rachelle Buchbinder – Australia

Jan Hartvigsen – Denmark

Dan Cherkin – United States

Nadine Foster – UK

Chris Maher – Australia

Martin Underwood – UK

Maruits van Tulder – Netherlands

For this week’s Next Steps in this review of The Lancet article on Low Back Pain, be sure to send us an email at dr.williams@chiropracticforward.com and let us know what you thought or contribute to the show for next week. We love hearing from you all. Also, go and follow Jan Hartvigsen https://twitter.com/JanHartvigsen, and Chris Maher https://twitter.com/CGMMaher on Twitter. 

Next week we will review the second paper of this three paper series. Next week’s paper is called “Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions.” We’ll go through it bit by bit and hit the highlights for those of you that aren’t into reading research papers and things of that sort. Don’t miss it!

If you love what you hear, be sure to check out www.chiropracticforward.com. As this podcast builds, so will the website with more content, products, and chances to learn. This review of The Lancet article on Low Back Pain is just an example of what you can look forward to.

We cannot wait to connect again with you next week for review of The Lancet article on Low Back Pain Part Two. From Creek Stone, my office here in Amarillo, TX, home of the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward. 

Be sure to check out part of our Chiropracrtors Cause Strokes Myth. This is a link to Part Two:

CF 014: DEBUNKED: The Odd Myth That Chiropractors Cause Strokes (Part 2 of 3)

References:

 

CF 011: With Dr. Tyce Hergert: It’s Here. New Guides For Low Back Pain That Medical Doctors Are Ignoring

This week, we are talking about acute and non-acute low back pain. What are current healthcare guidelines? Why does it matter to chiropractic patients and non-chiropractic patients and are those in the medical field getting (and implementing) the information?

I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast where we talk about issues related to health, chiropractic, evidence, and research and how those things all fit into a comprehensive approach for treating different conditions. Thank you for taking time out of your day to give us a listen. I know your time is valuable and I will always try hard to fill our time with valuable content.

We’re going to have more fun this week than stepping on a nail. Which I have done.

Before we dive in, it was so nice we had to do it twice. What am I talking about? I’m talking about bringing on Tyce. Tyce Hergert that is down in Southlake, TX. Owner and operator of Chiropractic Care Center of Southlake as well as Southlake Physical Medicine where he oversees an integrated practice. Dr. Hergert is also the immediate former President of the Texas Chiropractic Association so now he can say what he really thinks. He was the big cheese, the illustrious potentate of chiropractic in Texas.

Although it’s highly unlikely, should you enjoy what Tyce shares with us here today, go and listen to his other guest spot which can be found in Episode #6. You can find episode #6 at the following link:

CF 006: With Dr. Tyce Hergert: Astounding Expert Information On Immediate Headache Relief

Welcome to the show Tyce. Nice to have you back.

I would say that a chiropractor would be completely oblivious to not understand that Chiropractic is considered to be on the fringe of healthcare by many to most in the medical field. It’s just a fact and chiropractors deal with this daily. We Chiropractors are used to feeling like the black sheep of the healthcare family off in a corner keeping all to ourselves.

In other articles, podcasts, and videos of mine, you’ll notice I have covered the Wilk vs. AMA case. I’ve covered the Doctored film by Jeff Hayes spotlighting mistreatment of chiropractors. I’ve also covered current attacks on Texas Chiropractors by the Texas Medical Association. It is all very well-documented at this point.

Chiropractic is currently undergoing an amazing renaissance. This is due to a couple of key factors. The first being the need to develop non-pharmacological treatment recommendations in the midst of a national opioid addiction crisis. A crisis that has killed thousands and thousands in the last several years. The second reason being the body of high-quality research that is consistently coming to light almost every month showing the effectiveness of Chiropractic and evidence-based chiropractors.

Do you feel this renaissance, Tyce, or is it just me living inside my head?

With all of the new information and new healthcare laws emerging, the questions going forward SHOULD be, “Is the medical field and is the insurance industry listening and implementing?” We shall see. So far, the answer is, “Absolutely not.” In fact, it’s almost defiant.

Is that an accurate statement Tyce? You’re my checks and balance guy on everything.

Let’s begin with the most glaring denial of Federal Law by the insurance companies right now. It has to do with Section 2706 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Also commonly known as “Obamacare.” Section 2706 of the PPACA is entitled the nondiscrimination In Health Care section of the Federal Law and is intended to keep insurance companies and health plans from keeping chiropractors and the services they provide out of the system.

It reads as follows, “A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall not discriminate with respect to participation under the plan or coverage against any health care provider who is acting within the scope of that provider’s license or certification under applicable State law. This section shall not require that a group health plan or health insurance issuer contract with any health care provider willing to abide by the terms and conditions for participation established by the plan or issuer. Nothing in this section shall be construed as preventing a group health plan, a health insurance issuer, or the Secretary from establishing varying reimbursement rates based on quality or performance measures.”

On the American Chiropractic Association’s FAQ site for 2706, they state, “It is important to understand that Section 2706 and its assurance of non-discrimination in terms of participation and coverage requires that doctors of chiropractic not be discriminated against in the provision of any “essential benefit” that is within their scope of practice.”

Here’s the rub on 2706: part of its purpose is to reimburse chiropractors performing the same services under their scope and license at the same level financially as any other profession that provides that service.

For instance, under the PPACA Section 2706 Federal Law, chiropractors are to be paid the exact same for an 99203 exam code as a doctor of medicine or osteopathy is paid.

Would you agree with that assessment Dr. Hergert? Is this your understanding of the law?

Plain and simple. This is not happening. With so many chiropractors now integrating their practices with medical directors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and physical therapists like Dr. Hergert has in Southlake, it’s painfully clear that doctors of chiropractic are being discriminated against when it comes to reimbursements for the same codes performed.

In fact, chiropractors are integrating with these other professions just so that they can finally GET the reimbursements that the other practitioners are allowed! It is madness and clearly violates Section 2706 of PPACA.

Dr. Hergert, you are a great resource here since you’re in the middle of the two professions. What is your experience on this?

Tyce: The carriers will come right out and tell you they don’t think they have to play by this rule.

Also, there is violation of the law if an insurer does something such as applying caps on specific services provided by one healthcare provider whereas the cap does not apply to another type of provider. It is my understanding that United Healthcare has moved to a $65 visit cap on chiropractic care here in Texas.

Am I misinformed here Tyce? Does United Healthcare only put caps on Chiropractors or are they capping services with all providers?
Tyce: That gets very frustrating for those patients with a $50-70 copay.

It is the American Chiropractic Association’s opinion that a violation exists if the insurer or plan denies specific forms of care that is otherwise covered if it is a chiropractor providing the service and it is within their scope and licensing. I would suggest that a medical doctor probably gets services such as non-surgical decompression covered under insurance but chiropractors are routinely denied coverage.

Are there any better examples of this disparity, Tyce, since I don’t know any medical doctors that have their patients perform decompression?

There is a possible violation of Federal Law when Chiropractors are denied inclusion into a plan or group purely based on the profession. For example, it is my understanding that FirstCare won’t cover Chiropractic. Is that a violation of 2706?

Is that a violation? I suppose I could offer an opinion if I were a lawyer. I’m not sure why exactly other providers are allowed coverage while chiropractors are left out in the cold. Here is a great example though that I’m aware of here locally. there is a local insurance network that will remained un-named that charges $200 per year for chiropractors to be included for coverage however, medical professionals pay nothing to be included. Could that be a violation of the nondiscrimination law? I would say it smells a little fishy.

In my opinion, Federal Law is being violated all over the place in regards to Section 2706 of PPACA. I’m not sure how it can be perceived any other way.

What can you add here Tyce that I may have left out?
Tyce: What this means for patients is you can’t use that shiny new insurance policy that is costing you more than a $250k house payment would. You have to fork over the more money to pay for your chiropractic care.

Moving on from Section 2706…..I love talking about the New Recommendations For Acute and Chronic Low Back Pain.
It is becoming more and more aggravating that we chiropractors are not seeing a flood of acute and chronic low back pain patients. If you read my articles, watch my videos, or listen to my podcast with any regularity, you have no doubt been informed several times over of these new recommendations which, at this point aren’t that new anymore. They have been around for about a year now.

It is my opinion that no long-held beliefs or protocols will change if new information isn’t continually pounded and yelled about from the top of the roofs with megaphones. In marketing, experts have said that it takes a target 7 times of being exposed to information before it is finally received and, hopefully, acted upon.

I know that the medical field has NOT been exposed to this information at least 7 times because of two factors:
1. I have spoken to several medical practitioners here locally and not a single one of them has heard of or were aware of these new recommendations.
2. I am not seeing an incredible, overwhelming influx of acute and chronic low back pain new patients coming through my doors as a result of medical referrals.

Tyce, are you seeing an incredible influx of new low back patients from the medical field these days?

Is this willful disregard for the changing recommendations and a “clinging on” to old dogmatic beliefs passed down from the AMA years ago? I think some of it most certainly is.

Is it that a few bad seeds in the Chiropractic profession are giving the rest of us a bad image? I would say some of it most certainly is.

What I think it is mostly based on, however, is the fact that medical professionals are busy, they’re stressed, and many times over-worked and they simply don’t always have the time or opportunity to stay completely up on every new recommendation or updated protocol.

What do you think about it, Tyce?
Tyce: “You’re not down with, what you’re not up on.” Most don’t know. They didn’t get this info in school, and the pharma reps aren’t out spreading the good news.

With that being said, let’s be clear; the issues of low back pain, its economic impact, and the national opioid epidemic crisis in America combine to make these new recommendations that much more important.

Let’s start with the American College of Physicians. Remember, the American College of Physicians was proven in the Wilk vs. AMA case to have played a part in collaborating with the AMA in an attempt to rid the Earth of Chiropractic. I think that’s important to note as we go through the information because the ACP is historically known as a detractor or the chiropractic profession to put it mildly.

In response to the opioid epidemic gripping the nation currently, the American College of Physicians developed new recommendations for treating acute and chronic low back pain.

Why They Did It
• The American College of Physicians developed this guideline in order to provide updated recommendations on treatment of low back pain.
• With these recommendations, the ACP hoped to influence clinicians AND patients to make the correct decision for care in acute, subacute, or chronic low back pain conditions.

How They Did It
• They based their recommendations on a systematic review of randomized controlled trials and other systematic reviews.
• The research they reviewed included those papers available through April of 2015.
• The research included only those on noninvasive pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic treatments.

What They Found
• Recommendation #1: patients with subacute or acute low back pain should seek nonpharmacologic treatments such as Chiropractic, Massage, Acupuncture, and superficial heat BEFORE resorting to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Aleve, etc… (Graded as a strong recommendation)
• Recommendation #2: patients with chronic low back pain should seek nonpharmacologic treatments such as Chiropractic, Exercise/Rehabilitation, Acupuncture, & Cold Laser Therapy BEFORE resorting to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Aleve, etc… (Graded as a strong recommendation)
• Recommendation #3: In patients with chronic low back pain that have had no relief from nonpharmacological means, the first line of treatment would consist of NSAIDs like Aleve, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, etc.. As a second-line treatment, the clinician may consider tramadol or duloxetine. Opioids would be a last option and only if all other treatments have been exhausted and failed and even then with lengthy discussion with the patient in regards to the risks and benefits of using opioids. (Graded as weak recommendation)

Let’s recap: in February of 2017, the American College of Physicians, historically a Chiropractic profession detractor and attacker, now recommends Chiropractic as a first-line treatment for acute and chronic low back pain.

Dr. Hergert, does that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside because it does me?

Next, let us discuss the American Medical Association. If you thought the American College of Physicians was guilty of Chiropractic-hating, the American Medical Association is, or was, “Pablo Escobar” or the “El Chapo” of the attacks on the Chiropractic profession. The “El Jefe” of the Chiropractic haters, and the group that not only sat in the driver’s seat but also OWNED the entire truck of destruction back before Wilk vs. AMA came along. I believe I have been watching too much Netflix.

As a side note, I have realized that I have a wife, a daughter, and an all female staff at my office and…..I’m not the El Chapo or El Jefe of really anything. My son and I just walk around following orders pretty much. Tyce, you’re married with two daughters right?

On April 11, 2017, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study on their website titled “Association of Spinal Manipulative Therapy With Clinical Benefit and Harm for Acute Low Back Pain Systematic Review and Meta-analysis,” authored by Neil Page, MD et. al. In the format of this research paper, they refer to chiropractic treatment as spinal manipulative treatment or SMT. But, because spinal manipulative therapy is what we chiropractors do the most and what we are most identified with, I’m replacing the term “SMT” with “chiropractic adjustment.”

Is that fair, Tyce? I think it’s fair.

Why They Did It
Considering that spinal manipulation, or the chiropractic adjustment, is a treatment option for acute low back pain, and that acute low back pain is one of the most common reasons for visits to the doctor’s office, the authors wanted to systematically review the studies that have been done in the past dealing with the effectiveness as well as the harms of chiropractic adjustments in the treatment of acute low back pain.

How They Did It
• The researchers used searches of MEDLINE, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, EMBASE, and Current Nursing and Allied Health Literature.
• The search spanned 6 years from January 2011 through February 2017 for randomized controlled trials of adults with low back pain comparing spinal manipulative therapy with no treatment or with alternative treatments.
• The accepted papers also had to measure pain or functional outcomes for up to 6 weeks.
• The data extraction was done in duplicate.
• The quality of the study was assessed through use of the Cochrane Back and Neck Risk of Bias tool.
• Finally, the evidence was assessed using the GRADE criteria which stands for Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation.
• 26 eligible randomized controlled trials were identified and accepted

What They Found
• 15 of the RCTs, totaling 1699 patients, showed moderate-quality evidence that chiropractic adjustments had a statistically significant association with improvements in PAIN.
• 12 of the RCTs, totaling 1381 patients, showed moderate-quality evidence that chiropractic adjustments have a statistically significant association with improvements in FUNCTION.
• NO RCTs reported any serious harms or adverse event as a result of undergoing chiropractic adjustments.
• There were only minor events reported like some increased pain, muscle stiffness, and headache in roughly 50%-67% of those treated in the large case series. I would be interested to hear more about this statement by the authors. That is not what we commonly see in our practice. Sometimes, if the patient is new and is not accustomed to chiropractic adjustments, they may experience some soreness or stiffness the next day which is to be expected following a change in the body.
• I want to be as thorough as I can here….Tyce, do you see 50%-67% minor harms in your daily practice?

Wrap It Up
In true AMA fashion, instead of just coming out and saying, “Chiropractic adjustments showed moderate quality evidence for effectiveness in pain as well as in function,” the authors instead stated in conclusion, “Among patients with acute low back pain, spinal manipulative therapy was associated with modest improvements in pain and function at up to 6 weeks, with transient minor musculoskeletal harms. However, heterogeneity in study results was large.” Heterogeneity is defined as, “The quality or state of being diverse in character or content.” In my opinion, this is to give themselves and “out” by implying there was not enough focus to the RCTs to truly state their findings as fact.

Nonetheless, when the AMA comes even remotely close to endorsing anything having to do with Chiropractic, I’ll take it. And so should those in the medical field that commonly come in contact with those seeking help for their acute and chronic low back pain.

So…….We Should Be All Set For Success Now Right? Maybe they’re about to open up a chiropractic low back pain wing of the hospital, right?

That is what you’ think but there is new information from the White House that this simply is not the case despite the obvious ramifications. You can find the link in the show notes but on page 57 of The President’s Commission On Combating Drug Addiction and The Opioid Crisis report, the authors say, “A key contributor to the opioid epidemic has been the excess prescribing of opioids for common pain complaints and for postsurgical pain. Although in some conditions, behavioral programs, acupuncture, chiropractic, surgery, as well as FDA-approved multimodal pain strategies have been proven to reduce the use of opioids, while providing effective pain management, current CMS reimbursement policies, as well as health insurance providers and other payers, create barriers to the adoption of these strategies.” This is straight from the White House.

At the bottom of page 57, you will also see that it says, “The Commission recommends CMS review and modify rate-setting policies that discourage the use of non-opioid treatments for pain, such as certain bundled payments that make alternative treatment options cost prohibitive for hospitals and doctors, particularly those options for treating immediate post-surgical pain.”

What say you Tyce?
Tyce: You mean like a specialist copay for chiro care and a lower copay for primary care? Or covering surgery 100% and NOT covering non-surgical means.

Essentially, the United States Government is admitting there is professional discrimination at the highest levels…..hello Medicare and Health Insurance plans….I’m talking to you….this discrimination creates barriers to doing the smart thing.

The smart thing is seeing a chiropractor for your back pain. The “Big Guys” (AKA: American College of Physicians and the American Medical Association) recommend it and the government says policies are in place to prevent patients from following those recommendations.

In addition, policies that discriminate against chiropractic or chiropractors run in violation of Section 2706 of PPACA. It comes full circle.
I know you have something good to say here Tyce…

Tyce: The beautiful thing we get to see in our office, since we have both medicine and chiropractic working together, is the end of the story…people getting off the mind altering drugs, healing, and getting their lives back. All we do is follow these simple guidelines.

I have a question to pose to the entire Chiropractic profession: How in the heck do we deal with this?

It has to be through either the legislature at the state and federal levels or it has to be through the legal system. A guarantee I feel comfortable making is that the insurance companies won’t begin enforcing it on their own.

Mobilization and unification of the Chiropractic profession is probably where it starts.

Some steps toward that end include:
• Join or get involved with your state association. They’re the only ones effectively fighting for you and your rights on the state level.
• Join or get involved with your national association. They’re the only ones effectively fighting for you and your rights on the national level.
• If possible, build relationships with your state and national legislators.
• Donate to all of the above in the largest amounts you are comfortable with.
• Tell your friends and your colleagues about what is going on and help them get involved if they’re so inclined.
• Follow the news of your industry closely and stay knowledgeable about your profession. Both the good AND the bad.

Tyce, you have served for years and you’re still serving your profession. What you got on this?
Tyce: “Be part of the solution. You don’t have to dedicate 24/7 to the crusade….but you could do a little more. Right?”

A Chiropractic profession that is unified and playing offense instead of defense is powerful and is one of the worst nightmares of some folks I know out there in the world. Personally, as a side note, I like to see people like that squirm just a little don’t you? It just feels good. Makes what’s left of my hair stand up.

So won’t you consider helping if you haven’t before? If you don’t know where to start, email me at dr.williams@chiropracticforward.com and I will help you get on your way.

Tyce, I want to thank you for taking the time to come on the podcast and share your genius with us. With our history, I’m sure that Chiropractic Forward podcast listeners can count on your being a guest many many times. And, the next time will be the third time and I can say something like, “It was so nice, we had to do it thrice, with Tyce….or something stupid but entertaining like that.” Thanks for joining us today.

When Chiropractic is at its best, you cannot beat the risk vs reward ratio.

Did you know that research and clinical experience shows that, in about 80%-90% of headaches, neck, and back pain, in comparison to the traditional medical model, patients get good or excellent results with Chiropractic? Chiropractic care is safe, more cost-effective, it decreases your chances of having surgery, and it reduces your chances of becoming disabled. We do this conservatively and non-surgically. In addition, we can do it with minimal time requirements and minimal hassle on the part of the patient. And, if the patient develops a “preventative” mindset going forward from initial recovery, we can likely keep it that way while raising the general, overall level of health!

Please feel free to send us an email at dr dot williams at chiropracticforward.com and let us know what you think or what suggestions you may have for us for future episodes. If you love what you hear, be sure to check out www.chiropracticforward.com. As this podcast builds, so will the website as we add more content, educational products, and a little further down the road, webinars, seminars, and speaking dates as they get added.

 

In the meantime, here are some of our recent podcasts that may be of interest:

CF 012: Proven Means To Treat Neck Pain

CF 008: With Dr. Craig Benton – Brand New Information Based on Results Chiropractic Proven Effective For Low Back Pain

CF 010: Surprise Unique Information Shows Chiropractic May Work On The Brain Too

 

 

 

 

We cannot wait to connect again with you next week. From Creek Stone here in Amarillo, TX, home of the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward.

References and Source Material
1. https://www.amarillochiropractor.com/startling-medical-professional-attacks-chiropractic/
2. https://www.amarillochiropractor.com/healthcare-in-texas-the-battle-against-a-monopoly-a-true-story-about-david-goliath-3/
3. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images/The%20Underestimated%20Cost%20of%20the%20Opioid%20Crisis.pdf
4. https://www.acatoday.org/Portals/60/Docs/Advocacy%20and%20Reimbursement/2706/2706-FAQs.pdf?ver=2015-12-23-125425-503
5. https://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2603228/noninvasive-treatments-acute-subacute-chronic-low-back-pain-clinical-practice
6. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2616395?widget=personalizedcontent&previousarticle=2616379
7. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images/Final_Report_Draft_11-3-2017.pdf

 

CF 008: With Dr. Craig Benton – Brand New Information Based on Results Chiropractic Proven Effective For Low Back Pain

Today’s episode is all about chronic low back pain and some great, brand new research. By now, as I’ve said in the past, even traditional Chiropractor-hating, torch-wielding, quasi-scholastic chiropractic detractors are admitting that, yes, Chiropractic is indeed helpful for low back pain.

If you love what you hear, be sure to check out www.chiropracticforward.com. As the podcast builds, so too will the website content, educational products, webinars, seminars, and speaking dates as they get added.

For now though, it’s time for bumper music!

We will dive into the research in a few minutes but first, I have to introduce my guest this week. His name is Dr. Craig Benton. Dr. Benton is the owner/operator of Benton Chiropractic down in Lampassas, Texas but that’s not where the intro stops. Dr. Benton is the chair of Scientific Affairs for the Texas Chiropractic Association. He is where I have found a healthy percentage of the material that I have covered over the years for my blog, my YouTube videos, and now for the Chiropractic Forward podcast. Dr. Benton has been unknowingly instrumental in keeping me in business and making my life easier.

Welcome to the show Dr. Benton, how is life in Lampassas this week? My first question today is, have you been playing any guitar lately?

Dr. Benton and I are both in active practice. In fact, there’s a chance we may both have a patient show up at any time. That’s how actively we are practicing. I think that’s incredibly important to note because, so many times, you hear podcasts and attend seminars where the guys and gals speaking don’t really know a thing about actively practicing for 20 plus years. I’ve always felt that experience matters. Even when I was young and green. I was well-aware that I didn’t know it all and I’m even more aware of that today than ever.

So Dr. Benton, I’m looking forward to hearing your opinions and insight today.

Since the podcast today is about chronic pain, I think we should begin with a definition of what Chronic really is. When we define “chronic” in the context of neuromusculoskeletal complaints, we define it as being a complaint that is greater than 12 weeks in duration. Right at 3 months. Some patients will come into the office having had a condition for 15-20 years. I tell them that they are more than a little stubborn to have put up with something for so long.

It is common sense that a condition that is chronic will be more difficult to treat. Also, most chronic conditions can be traced back to a biomechanical, neuromusculoskeletal origin. One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Lee Green, Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan. He said, “Neck pain is a mechanical problem, and it makes sense that mechanical treatment works better than a chemical one.” Although Dr. Green is referring to neck pain in this instance, “low back pain” can easily be substituted. What he says could not make more sense. It’s an easy and very concise way to understand why Chiropractic, manipulation, mobilization is so incredibly effective above and beyond anything else for this sort or issue, including medication.

Do you have a quote or quotes that you love sharing that make sense to you and that help you boil down what it is we chiropractors are doing to help our patients?

I have overhead medical doctors (more than once) talking about having back pain and just injecting themselves with something to try to get over it. If they asked me, I’d tell them that they’re just covering up an underlying trigger or cause and ignoring it is to their detriment.

A good metaphor I came across for using medication for neuromusculoskeletal complaints is that it’s like unplugging a smoke alarm because you don’t like the noise. But, the fire is still slowly growing. What have they done to treat anything in a responsible and effective way? Nothing at all. We tend to live in a society that wants a pill for this and a potion for that so they can get over it and get on with life. But it doesn’t work that way.

Dr. Benton, has this been your experience as well?

Dr. Benton, don’t you treat soldiers through the VA program? Can you tell us all a little bit about that?

Let’s go over some low back pain statistics just we can try to stress the importance of what we’re talking about here. Dr. Benton, please feel free to jump in with anything you’d like to add:

  • Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.
  • 8 out of every ten people will experience back pain. I will admit that I have never met anyone in 45 years of life on this Earth that fit’s into the 20% that apparently never suffers from any low back pain. Dr. Benton….have you ever met anyone that has never had back pain? Is it just me?
  • Back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office right behind upper-respiratory infections.
  • With such gains and leaps in the medical industry as far as treatment goes, low back pain is stubbornly on the rise.
  • More than half of Americans who experience low back pain spend the majority of the work day sitting. 54% to be exact. It’s good to be a chiropractor I guess. Our patients keep us up and moving most of the day.
  • Dr. Benton, did you know that….now…an equal number of patients seek help with a chiropractor first as seek help with a medical practitioner first for back pain? That’s new information to me that I found interesting.
  • Back pain in general costs $100 billion dollars every year when you factor in lost wages, productivity as well as legal and insurance overheads.

Now that we all know more about low back pain, let’s go through some things that may put you at greater risk of suffering from the condition. Dr. Benton, with your experience on the research, stop me if you have anything to add to any of these:

  • Age: as the spine and supporting structures begin to age and decline, the rate of low back pain will understandably increase.
  • Fitness Level: physically active people do not suffer low back pain to at the rate inactive people suffer. A healthy exercise and core building protocol can help reduce symptoms or instances of low back pain.
  • Weight Gain: Being overweight or obese and gaining weight quickly places increased strain on the low back.
  • Pregnancy: This one goes without saying. Pelvic changes and weight gain both contribute.
  • Genetics: Some forms of arthritis or other systemic conditions are genetic in nature
  • Work: Jobs that include heavy labor and or twisting or expose people to vibration consistently can be problematic. Jobs that require long periods of sitting in a chair can be equally problematic.
  • Mental health factors: Many people are able to deal with chronic pain but anxiety and depression are conditions that can cause a person to focus on the pain which tends to raise the perceived severity and significance for the person suffering from the condition. Dr. Benton, have you come across any patients that fit this description in your practice?
  • Improper backpack use: Kids suffer back pain needlessly since they are not traditionally in an age range we would consider to be a risk factor. However, backpacks used improperly are a common culprit. A backpack should never be more than 15%-20% of a child’s weight and should be carried on both shoulders with the bottom being at or about waste level.

What does the research say?

As I’m sure Dr. Benton will agree…..the research says a lot, to be honest. In fact, I’d say that there’s more research for the effectiveness of manipulation/mobilization in low back pain than for any other conditions chiropractors commonly treat. Am I out of bounds here Dr. Benton?

The research shows Chiropractic beating general practitioners in effectiveness as well as cost. The research shows Chiropractic beating common medications prescribed for low back pain. The research shows Chiropractic beating physical therapy and exercise alone. The research shows Chiropractic beating epidural spinal injections for low back pain. And the two of us can point you to randomized controlled trials proving it. Basically, the research is clear.

In January of 2018, a brand new research paper dealing with manipulation and mobilization was published in Spine Journal by Ian Coulter, PhD et. al. titled “Manipulation and mobilization for treating chronic low back pain: a systematic review” and funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Now, to be clear, Spine Journal sounds a little bit like it may be a Chiropractic publication for those of you that don’t commonly read research abstracts…… but it is not.

Dr. Benton, can you describe Spine Journal for us?

Here’s why the authors took this project on.

The authors of the paper stated that there remained questions about manipulation and mobilization efficacy, the proper dosing of the techniques, how safe they are, as well as how they compare to other treatment protocols commonly used for chronic low back pain.

I have to say that I had no remaining questions regarding really ANY of those topics but it seems that these authors did.

Dr. Benton, again, please feel free to jump in anywhere you’d like as we go through the hows, why’s and the what’s here.

Here’s How They Did It

  • This paper was a systematic review and meta-analysis.
  • They searched databases for relevant studies from January 2000-March 2017
  • They chose randomized controlled trials that compared manipulation or mobilization to sham treatment, no treatment, other therapies, and multimodal therapeutic approaches.
  • They assessed the risk of bias using the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network.
  • Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) was applied to determine the confidence in effect estimates.
  • 51 trials were included

What They Found

  • Within 7 of those trials on manipulation and/or mobilization there was reduction of disability when compared to other forms of therapy.
  • Further analyses showed that manipulation specifically was responsible for significant reduction in pain and disability when put up against therapies such as exercise and physical therapy.
  • Mobilization was also was significantly more effective when compared to exercise regimens for pain reduction but not for disability.

Wrap It Up

In the conclusion of the paper abstract, the authors say, “There is moderate-quality evidence that manipulation and mobilization are likely to reduce pain and improve function for patients with chronic low back pain; manipulation appears to produce a larger effect than mobilization. Both therapies appear safe.”

As I’ve said many times, “a lot of research in your favor becomes fact.” Chiropractic has A LOT of research in its favor.

Dr. Benton, would you like to add any final thoughts?

I’d like to thank Dr. Benton for taking the time to be with us today. He really is one of the guys out here in the real world trying his best to help change things for Chiropractors in Texas and in the world.

I want to finish off by saying that when Chiropractic is at its best, you cannot beat the risk vs reward ratio. Plain and simple.

Just another reason to call a chiropractor TODAY!

Research and clinical experience shows that, in about 80%-90% of headaches, neck, and back pain, compared to the traditional medical model, patients get good or excellent results with Chiropractic. It’s safe, more cost-effective, decreases chances of surgery, and reduces chances of becoming disabled. We do this conservatively and non-surgically and do it with minimal time requirements and hassle on the part of the patient. And, if the patient develops a “preventative” mindset going forward, we can likely keep it that way while raising the general, overall level of health!

Please feel free to send us an email at dr dot williams at chiropracticforward.com and let us know what you think or what suggestions you may have for us for future episodes. Please remember, we need your help to spread the word and grow this podcast. If you would help us out by sharing our podcast information, our website, and social media entities, we would greatly appreciate your help.

We cannot wait to connect again with you next week. From Creek Stone here in Amarillo, TX, home of the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward.

Research Citation:

Coulter I, et. al. “Manipulation and mobilization for treating chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis” The Spine Journal, Volume 0 , Issue 0 ,

https://www.thespinejournalonline.com/article/S1529-9430(18)30016-0/fulltext