National

Jun 8, 2010 9:57 AM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Back pain widely overtreated

A recent estimate has Americans spending a staggering $86 billion a year to care for aching backs. The money covers MRIs, pain pills, nerve blocks and a host of other treatments.

But research finds little evidence that the patients got better as medical bills soared over the past decade. The reality is that time often is the best antidote.

Most people will experience back pain at some point, but up to 90 percent will heal on their own within weeks.

In fact, for run-of-the-mill cases, doctors aren't even supposed to do an X-ray or MRI unless the pain lingers for a month to six weeks. Yet a study last year found nearly 1 in 3 aching Medicare patients get some kind of back scan within that first month.

Doctors order the treatments because there's no one-size-fits-most treatment.

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