The true extent of how much money is wasted by the NHS on surgical interventions that routinely fail to cure back pain has been revealed in an article in The Times (April 9th 2018) by Chris Smyth.
I regularly hear scary stories from my own patients, that tell me about treatments they’ve been offered by their GPs or via a GP referral. I also regularly see patients that have had surgical procedures to ‘help’ with their pain and have to give them the sad news that whilst I can often improve things for them, I’m unable to achieve the same results I could have if they’d avoided the surgery.
It is staggering to think that so many people are receiving Spinal Surgery and Steroid Injections into Facet Joints. The Steroid injections alone cost the NHS around £540 each time. It would appear that these procedures are being made readily available to patients as a means to ‘move them on’. Of course we’d all love to discover a quick fix for our ailments, but at the same time, we have to be sensible about the choices we are making.Pain can easily make us irrational and lead us to make poor choices, but should those options even be available to us without rigorous procedures in place to protect us from our lack of medical knowledge or the free and easy attitude of many medical practitioners.
A consultant surgeon leading the NHS project to help improve the current situation, Mike Hutton, said that whilst surgery is essential for some specific conditions, it was not the way forward for back pain thought to be emanating from facet joints or discs. He did however recognise that some surgeons are happy to carry out such procedures.
The Times commissioned analysis of NHS data which revealed over 70,000 patients had injections into facet joints last year alone (2017). That is a 12% increase on the amount of people treated just 5 years earlier. This is in complete contrast to NHS guidelines which say these procedures shouldn’t be done. Martin Underwood of Warwick University said if medical practitioners are doing these procedures they are denying people the opportunity of receiving alternate treatments. Treatments which cost likely have a better outcome and far lower line long risks.
There were also nearly 11,000 procedures carried out to burn away nerves. Even NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, says that this procedure should be a last resort.
Nerves are there to signal our brains that something is wrong. This procedure is like shooting the messenger. Of course there will be situations where the trauma is irreparable and the procedure is required, but there will be far fewer cases actually ‘needing’ this treatment, than the amount of procedures carried out.
Always, always seek second and even third opinions before you commit to anything as drastic as the procedures mentioned above and being handed out like smarties by the NHS.
See a specialist that treats ‘therapeutically’ back and neck pain. If you see a needle or a knife, they aren’t the best people to be helping you. Give your body every opportunity to heal itself.
Pain can lead us all to take desperate measures, so make sure you reach out to someone that truly understands what you are going through and will work with you to help you get the best results nature’s way.
Become Back Pain Free
Don’t suffer with your back pain. Always seek a second opinion.