Get Vertical: Don't Take Back Pain Lying Down
January 11, 2012 -- For people with the most common type of low back pain, imaging tests don’t give doctors much information that’s useful for diagnosis or treatment and a non-prescription pain reliever is the best choice if medication is needed. Despite that, 2010 data shows at least 26 percent of Oregonians who received care for a new episode of simple low back pain received an imaging test and approximately 15 percent filled prescriptions for narcotic pain relievers within 90 days.
The campaign is based on a recently released State of Oregon Evidence-based Clinical Guideline for the Evaluation and Management of Low Back Pain and includes a consumer booklet and interactive, online quiz to help people with low back pain take simple steps on their own to feel better.
Among the simple steps, the campaign urges people with low back pain to stay active because inactivity can actually slow down recovery. The campaign asks people with low back pain to carefully consider their treatment options, gives an overview of when they should see their doctor and provides safety tips for using pain relievers.
“Our goal is to provide resources to providers and to consumers that help people effectively manage low back pain without having to undergo tests and treatments that may not benefit them, and that have potential to do harm,” says Mylia Christensen, executive director of the Oregon Health Care Quality Corporation. “This is especially important in Oregon, which has the third highest rate of back surgery in the country, according to the Dartmouth Atlas Project.”
The state’s new clinical guideline was developed in partnership by the Oregon Health Care Quality Corporation, Oregon Health Authority and the Health Services Commission, Center for Evidence-based Policy at Oregon Health & Science University, and the Oregon Health Leadership Council.
The low back pain guideline is the first in a series of guidelines to be developed as part of the strategies outlined in Oregon’s Action Plan for Health, a comprehensive health reform plan created by the Oregon Health Policy Board in response to legislation passed in 2009.
“This collaborative effort to develop consensus on evidence-based guidelines for health conditions such as low back pain can create standards that ensure that high-quality, effective care is provided to every Oregonian,” says Jeanene Smith, MD, MPH, administrator of the Office for Oregon Health Policy and Research. “This effort is an important part of health care transformation that will lead to less variation in care and better health outcomes.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low back pain, and it’s the most common cause of job-related disability. According to the Department of Consumer and Business Services, MRI of the lumbar spine was among the top 15 workers’ compensation medical services in Oregon in 2010, with payments of $3.36 million for this service alone. This affects the quality of life for many Oregonians and costs millions of dollars for consumers, employers, health plans and the state.
“Medical evidence clearly shows that staying active helps people with low back pain heal faster,” says Valerie King, MD, MPH, director of research and policy at the Center for Evidence-based Policy at Oregon Health & Science University. “We hope that this campaign will reassure and encourage people dealing with low back pain to resume their usual activities as soon as possible and avoid unnecessary medical services which may do more harm than good.”
The Oregon Health Care Quality Corporation is part of Aligning Forces for Quality, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s signature effort to lift the quality of care in 16 target communities and provide models that will help propel national reform. The low back pain campaign resources, including the consumer booklet and online quiz, as well as other resources to help Oregonians become better partners in their health care, are available on the Partner for Quality Care website.