Back pain: time to get it right

On any given day in Australia, one quarter of the population is suffering back pain, and nearly 80 per cent of adult Australians will experience back pain some time during their lives.

Back pain is the leading cause of work loss days with 25 per cent of sufferers in the 18-44 age group taking 10 or more days off per year and costs Australia around $4.8 billion each year for health care. Yet research has shown that only a minority of people receive the best treatment for their back pain.

Back pain: time to get it right is the second in a series of medicine lectures being hosted by the University of Sydney every Wednesday until 27 November.

21st Century Medicine Lecture Series: today’s research, tomorrow’s healthcare, showcases the work of leading researchers at the University’s Sydney Medical School. All talks are free and open to the public.

Professor Chris Maher of The George Institute for Global Health and The University of Sydney will discuss the best care for back pain and also what his latest research tells us about how back pain is typically managed. It turns out that best practice calls for a much simpler approach than we are currently getting.

Professor Maher says both individuals and government waste a great deal of money on unnecessary tests and treatments, including invasive surgery.

“Back pain is a very common reason for visiting a GP, and 25 per cent of people are referred for imaging from GPs when we know imaging offers very little in benefits,” he said.

“Undoubtedly we waste lots of money on unnecessary treatments and tests for back pain; but judging exactly how much is 'wasted' is difficult. No-one yet has joined all the dots and put a total figure on waste but it would be a staggering amount of money.

“A concern is that, without improvements in the understanding and treatment of back pain, the costs will continue to rise.”

From November 1, 2013, General Practitioners will for the first time be able to request MRIs for all patients. MRIs are more expensive than X-rays, so education on appropriate imaging referrals will be crucial to avoid even greater Medicare expenditure.”

Event details:

Title:                           Back pain – time to get it right
Date:                           Wednesday, 2 October
Time:                          6pm-7.30pm
Venue:                        PricewaterhouseCoopers, Level 10, 201 Sussex Street, Sydney

For more information click here