From the GIC Summer 2015 Newsletter pdf format of fybsummer2015.pdf

If you have low back pain, you’re not alone.  It’s one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor, and the pain can be excruciating.  Patients often beg their doctor for a CT or MRI scan, and sometimes doctors rush to perform them.  However, immediately undergoing an image scan is usually not helpful and can be harmful.  CT scans and other forms of imaging that rely on radiation are believed to be increasing cancer rates (The New Yorker, May 11, 2015; Atul Gawande, M.D.)  Alternately, patients and doctors may advocate for bed rest, which can exacerbate the issue, particularly if continued for more than two days.  Most back pain subsides after a week or so and lifestyle modifications, such as walking, water aerobics, physical therapy, and losing weight are usually the best course of treatment.  However, if your back pain is also causing tingling or loss of sensation, quick intervention is usually needed. 

Atrius Health, an alliance of medical groups that includes VNA Care Network, Granite Medical Group, Harvard Vanguard and Dedham Medical, recently embarked on an education campaign about proper care for low back pain.  Using Choosing Wisely® materials, Atrius’s approach helped guide patient-doctor conversations about low back pain treatment.  Choosing Wisely® was established by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation to promote conversations between clinicians and patients about necessary, evidence-based care.

Some of the other new Choosing Wisely® resources include information about:

  • Colonoscopies
  • Preventing Seizures after an Ischemic stroke (caused by an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain and the most frequent kind of stroke)
  • Blood tests for miscarriage risk
  • Mammograms before elective breast surgery
  • Brain scans for a head injury
  • Medications for chronic pain

Consumer Reports, a key partner in the Choosing Wisely® campaign, suggests that patients ask their doctor the following before undergoing a test or procedure:

  • Do I really need this test or procedure?
  • What are the risks?
  • Are there simple safer options?
  • What happens if I don’t do anything? Will my condition get worse or better if I wait?
  • How much does it cost?  Are there less expensive, equally effective ways to treat this problem?

Visit Choosing Wisely  for helpful patient lists and videos created by national medical specialty societies to help patients take charge of their own health.

This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission .