Dynamic Chiropractic - June 5, 1995, Volume 13, Issue 12

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Reader's Digest Dispels Back Pain Myths

Article in World's Most Read Publication is Based on AHCPR Guidelines

The clinical practice guidelines, Acute Low Back Problems in Adults, published by the Agency for Health care Policy and Research (AHCPR), recommend that the "relief of discomfort" (of acute low back conditions) "can be accomplished most safely with nonprescription medication and/or spinal manipulation." But to what extent did this recommendation for spinal manipulation filter down to John and Mary Q. Public?

Aside from a brief mention of the AHCPR guidelines on the national nightly news back on Dec. 8, 1994 when the guidelines were made public, and the short-lived newspaper articles at the time, how many people have heard or read about them, and what influence has the AHCPR recommendation for spinal manipulation had in peoples' health care decisions about back pain treatment?

While the latter question is unanswerable, at least we know the word is getting out about spinal manipulation with the publication of "Good News for Bad Backs" in the May 1995 Reader's Digest. The article is subheaded: "Forget those old myths about how to treat back pain. Here are the latest -- often surprising -- recommendations."

Reader's Digest is subscribed to by 27 million people worldwide, and it's anybody's guess how many more tens of millions read it. The Digest is the number one magazine in the US (16 million subscribers), and is published in 17 languages: English (US, UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, India, Asia); Spanish (US, Latin American, Spain); Portuguese (Portugal, Brazil); Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Chinese, Russian, Hungarian, Czech, Korean, and Hindi. The Digest also is presented in large-type editions, in Braille, and on audio cassettes. Suffice it to say that the message is getting out about spinal manipulation and chiropractic.

In "Good News for Bad Backs," author Mandy Matson states: "For generations much of the medical advice about low-back pain has been less than ideal. All too often suffering was prolonged and even compounded by outdated medical treatments." The author then lists seven "myths" of low-back pain, and suggests people try the new guidelines of the AHCPR:

Myth l: See your doctor right away.
New Guideline: Give yourself some time.

Myth 2: Stay in bed.
New Guideline: Get back on your feet

Myth 3: You need prescription drugs to bring relief. New Guideline: Many can take aspirin, or other over-the-counter painkillers.

Myth 4: Get an x-ray.
New Guideline: Not so fast.

Myth 5: You'll often need surgery.
New Guideline: Probably not.

Myth 6: Don't exert yourself.
New Guideline: Exercise.

Myth 7: Stay away from chiropractors.
New guideline: They may help.

While the author's dispelling of back pain myths is not the glowing endorsement of chiropractic that we would like, it does lead people away from prescription drugs and surgery.

In support of chiropractic care, the author cites the RAND study as reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine. RAND researcher Paul Shekelle, MD, MPH, is quoted: "The data are sufficient to say that spinal manipulation is definitely better than many medical therapies that people used in the past."

Most importantly, the author recognizes spinal manipulation as chiropractic. No mention was made of osteopathy or manual manipulators. "To find a competent chiropractor," the author suggests: "... ask your doctor for a referral or ask friends about chiropractors who have successfully treated their back problems."

This article should go a long way in helping to dispel the medical myths about back pain, and presenting at least some of the truth about chiropractic.