Despite Spine Spending Increase, Back Pain Remains High

Armen Hareyan's picture

Americans spend more on spine and back pain problems, but they still suffer from back and neck pain disability, suggests the study by Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers studied back pain related data of 23000 people from 1997 to 2005. In 2005 people spent about $86 billion on spine treatment. This is a 65% rise compared to 1997. Patients with spine problems spent about twice more ($6096) than those without ($3516) in 20005.


Despite of growing medical spendings, the number of spine and back pain patients keeps increasing. In 1997 the study reported about 21% back pain patients, In 2005 the number of patients row to 25%. The study also shows spine surgery to be more effective than medications or physical therapy.

Patients pay more, but they still have back pain problems. What does this mean? Why don't current treatments work? Or maybe they are just overused by doctors?

"I think the truth is we have perhaps oversold what we have to offer," said Dr. Richard A. Deyo, a physician at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. "All the imaging we do, all the drug treatments, all the injections, all the operations have some benefit for some patients. But I think in each of those situations we've begun using those tests or treatments more widely than science would really support."

Obesity is also a major problem that may lead to spine problems. Yet, more research needs to be done to find out why back pain problems keep increasing.