In light of recent the meningitis outbreak, debate surrounding back pain treatment procedures resurfaces. Since the outbreak has been linked to a popular steroid injection used in the treatment of back pain, advocates of alternative methods of treatment are questioning the effectiveness and overall safety of the medications and surgeries commonly prescribed for sufferers of back pain.
November 9, 2012 – The recent fungal meningitis outbreak in the United States was linked to a tainted steroid used to treat back pain. In 19 states, it has made 419 people ill, including 10 joint infections. It has killed 30 according to this week’s most recent count. The 19 states affected are Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Approximately 14,000 people may have received tainted shots of the steroid.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the United States. A common way to treat back pain is shots of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid injection which has been linked to the meningitis outbreak. As a result, the medical industry is arguing again about how back pain is treated. Old debates about whether back pain sufferers have become too dependent on drugs and surgeries and whether these treatments even work in the long run were brought to life once again.
“A lot of times primary care doctors, or even patients, get into certain patterns where, if it hurts, they go the extreme route first instead of trying something natural and more conservative,” said a Maryland Doctor of Chiropractic Alan Sokoloff. The American Academy of Pain Medicine agrees that drugs should be used after other, less invasive methods are given a shot and the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress in California issued a position paper after the outbreak criticizing what it calls an overuse of drugs to treat back pain. The group also said that the use of drugs masks pain rather than treating underlying conditions.
Foundation for Chiropractic Progress spokesman, Dr. Gerard Clum, said that the use of drugs among doctors is inconsistent. “There are some physicians that will hold surgery and epidural injections as the last resort and others who jump to it very quickly,” said Doctor Clum. The physician a patient sees can influence what type of treatment is recommended for back pain. For example, if your primary care doctor sends you to an orthopedic surgeon you may be more likely to choose surgery.