For years I’ve watched people throw away large amounts of money, time and hope in an effort to rid themselves of debilitating back pain. We spend billions of dollars on back surgeries and drugs designed to alleviate back pain in the U.S. and have very little to show for it.
It’s really a microcosm of the reactionary, misguided health care system we have cobbled together in this country. The system exists for the benefit of hospitals, government regulators, insurance companies and big pharmaceutical firms, and not for patients. In many ways, patients are the least concern.
And it makes me angry.
So I have done two things to combat this terrible trend. First, I became a chiropractor and opened my own clinic, Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy in New Jersey. We treat patients holistically and offer preventative treatment that can cure their problems before they emerge.
Then, I wrote a book. The Blueprint for Back Pain Relief: The Essential Guide to Nonsurgical Solutions.
The purpose of the book is to show America that our health care system, particularly when it comes to backs, is upside down. It waits until you have a problem and then attempts to treat the symptoms. Those remedies, encouraged by insurance companies and drug makers, are only sometimes effective because they aren’t addressing the root cause of the problem. But rest assured they are almost always expensive. People have to get paid.
You know the parable of the man with a hammer? To him, every job looks like a nail. If he sees a screw, he pounds it in with his hammer. If he needs to cut a piece of wood, he demolishes it with the hammer. It doesn’t occur to him that different tasks require different tools.
So it is in our corrupt, medicine-centered health care system that encourages patients to choose quick-fix drugs and dangerous surgeries. At best these supposed remedies can treat the symptoms of problems without addressing their cause.
Spinal fusion surgery is a common form of back surgery. It’s a big deal. It’s complicated, imposes a long recovery period, and can cause grievous harm. As I point out in my book, it’s estimated to work a mere 25-50% of the time. Surgery is a coin flip at best.
There are certainly cases that require surgery, but the vast majority of people with back pain can find relief non-surgically. In the book, I outline how my staff and I have helped thousands of people regain a healthy spine and the ability to lead active lives without surgery.
Writing the book was cathartic for me, but I also hope it teaches people something. I hope it empowers them to ask the right questions and demand long-term solutions to their health problems.
But you know what would I prefer? If we started transforming our health care system to something patient-centered and preventative, with a longer time horizon than simply masking symptoms.