More than half of Americans suffer from back pain, and doctors are turning to prescription painkillers frequently.
According to a poll by Truven Health Analytics and NPR, 40% of people who sought out medical treatment for their back pain were prescribed painkillers.
Truven Health Analytics, which is part of the IBM Watson Health business, and NPR conducted a nationwide poll of 3,002 Americans about treatment for back pain that was experienced within the last 12 months.
Some of the key findings from the poll are highlighted below, while the entire results can be found by clicking on this link:
- Back Pain Plagues Americans: Fifty one percent of Americans said they have suffered from back pain in the last 12 months, and 46 percent of those who experienced pain said they are still in discomfort. More than half (58 percent) of back pain sufferers sought care, with 70 percent visiting a medical doctor and 14 percent visiting a chiropractor.
- Prescription Pain Killers are the Most Common Treatment: Of the 70 percent of back pain sufferers who sought care from a medical doctor, 40 percent were prescribed prescription pain killers, a rate that tended to decrease with increasing age of the patient. Other treatments prescribed were exercise/physical therapy (31 percent), injections (20 percent), massage (17 percent), steroids (17 percent), over-the-counter painkillers (13 percent), surgery (12 percent), or some other form of treatment (37 percent).
- Nearly a Third Remain in Pain, Even with Treatment: Among all respondents, 25 percent said their back pain stayed the same and five percent said their pain got worse. Forty-five percent said their pain improved, and 25 percent said it went away completely.
“Experiencing back pain is very common among Americans, and there are a number of factors that can contribute to it, some of which are treatable without prescription pain killers,” said Anil Jain, MD, Vice-President and Chief Health Informatics Officer, Value-Based Care, IBM Watson Health.
“These data show that when the patients do seek care, they are often prescribed pain-killers. Compounding this challenge, back pain sufferers who are prescribed opioids for pain may be particularly at risk for dependency and addiction. Curbing inappropriate opioid prescriptions for chronic pain is a focus of efforts by providers to combat the current opioid epidemic,” Dr. Jain added.
The results depicted from the 2017 survey represent responses from 3,002 survey participants interviewed from March 1 – 16, 2017. The margin of error is +/- 1.8 percentage points.