HOUSTON - Doctors say that 70 percent of adults will experience some episode of back pain in their lifetime. It's usually the result of extremes: being either too sedentary or overexerting yourself.
But doctors warn too many patients are turning to powerful prescription drugs and expensive diagnostic tests rather than a "less is more" approach.
Doctor visits due to neck and back pain rack up some $86 billion in healthcare spending.
A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that far too often, patients are being prescribed strong, highly addictive narcotics rather than more conservative treatments.
Kelsey-Seybold's chief of Pain Management and Spine Center Dr. Ahmed Sewielam told Local 2, "I believe anti-inflammatories, and Tylenol, and reassurance, and some modification in job duties and daily activity should be enough to help."
He added, "The push, and the urge, and the society, and culture now is to find a very fast treatment for anything and a primary care doctor trying to help patients and give them narcotics together with certain muscle relaxers have patients depending on this."
Researchers also found the rate of referrals to other back surgeons and specialists has more than doubled, leading to more unnecessary and costly CT and MRI scans.
Dr. Sewielam said, "At least 20 to 30 percent of adults, for instance, will show, and I'm talking about normal adults without back pain, will show an abnormality on an MRI. So we're talking about a lot of false positive results."
When there are no other red flags such as fever, cancer history, weight loss or neurological problems, experts say a more conservative approach, even with physical therapy, can provide relief. It just takes time.
So with back pain being so common, is there anything you can do to prevent it?
Doctors say weight control, smoking cessation and exercise such as yoga and flexibility training can definitely help.
Copyright 2013 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.