Close X
Get more out of
by joining the site for free
Free 17-point plan to great health
Twice weekly e-news bulletins
Access to our News, Forums and Blogs
Sign up for free and claim your
17-point plan to great health
Free 17-point plan to great health

Twice weekly e-news bulletins

Access to our News, Forums and Blogs

If you want to read our in-depth research articles or
have our amazing magazine delivered to your home
each month, then you have to pay.

Click here if you're interested
Helping you make better health choices

What Doctors Don't Tell You

In shops now or delivered to your home from only £3.50 an issue!

April 2018 (Vol. 3 Issue 2)

Blame it on the back



Lynne McTaggart is co-editor of WDDTY. She is also a renowned health campaigner and the best-selling author of The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond.











Blame it on the back

December 21st 2017, 13:57

There's a medical problem out there that threatens to outstrip the cost of treatments for all types of cancers combined, and that's back pain.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in February 2008, Americans spent a staggering $86 billion on treatments for the spine in 2005—an increase of 65 per cent in less than a decade. This is about the same as is spent on cancer treatment, and the numbers have only continued to spiral upward.

While the total costs increased by 65 per cent from 1997 to 2005, the money spent on drugs—a cool $20 billion in 2005 alone—increased by 171 per cent in the same period, with a 425 per cent increase in narcotic pain relief.

The statistics are similar in the UK, with the only difference being that our National Health Service (and hence all of us) are largely footing the bill.

This giant expenditure might even be worth it, if we were getting somewhere.

But as the bleak statistics starkly reveal, the number of people with lower back and neck pain serious enough to cause impairment has more than doubled, according to the American National Health Interview Survey, and both conditions lead the list of disabilities, resulting in a staggering 291 million days lost at work in 2012 alone.

At the top of the list of so-called back problems is sciatica, a condition where the sufferer has sharp, radiating pain cascading down from the glutes to the back of the foot. Some 40 per cent of all Americans and British people will suffer from sciatica at some point in their lives. Often it goes hand in hand with back pain in other areas.

The standard medical approach is to consider sciatica a problem of the spine or a matter of 'neuropathic pain'—meaning nerve pain, the origin of which we haven't a clue about.

According to Harvard Medical School's health website: "A common culprit for sciatica is a herniated disc (also referred to as a ruptured disc, pinched nerve, or slipped disc). Discs can weaken over time. Or a vertebra can slip forward and the nerve fibres become compressed, like a garden hose with a kink in it. This can happen because of an injury or trauma, but is often the result of years of bending and sitting for long stretches."

When the drugs don't stop the pain—and they often don't—and the pain worsens, doctors turn to surgery, which, like pain medication, is also burgeoning. Some 1.2 million operations are performed every year in the US, one-quarter of which are spinal fusions, the operation of choice for sciatica, costing some $60,000 apiece.

Approximately 50 per cent of those surgeries fall into the category of the 'failed back syndrome'—where medicine has singularly failed to do anything but make the problem worse.

The renowned British orthopaedic surgeon Professor Gordon Waddell once estimated that only 1 per cent of patients with low back pain can be classified as surgical success cases.

Maggie Hayward, for one, an exhibition manager from Southwest London, remortgaged her house to pay for the £35,000 it cost to have spinal fusion, banking on the fact that it would end the stabbing, burning pain she had in her lower back and legs, which felt like an electric shock. It was a last-ditch effort, since she'd tried everything from acupuncture to traction without success.

Like so many others, the operation did not affect the pain in any way. Maggie was forced to retire and was never able to work again.

One reason for all these failures, at least when it comes to surgery, is the simple fact that the pain radiating down your leg has nothing to do with your spine.

Physiotherapist Mitchell Yass is one of a growing number of forward-thinking physiotherapists who have concluded that sciatic pain isn't coming from your back—it's from your hip.

Muscle imbalances surrounding the hip overwork certain muscles that ultimately strain or enlarge, eventually impinging on certain nerves, causing radiating pain down the leg.

As Dr Yass has discovered, the answer is simply to rebalance those hip muscles so that the ones causing the problems shrink back to normal and play again as a team. No surgery, no drugs—just a series of short exercises to get those muscles back into line.

And that's possibly why medicine has it so wrong when it comes to sciatic pain. Compared to drugs or surgery, there's not a lot of money to be made from telling people that they can sort themselves out by doing a few exercises. No big drug patent, no heroic surgery. Just, like most medical issues, a simple problem with an equally simple solution.

Latest Tweet


Since 1989, WDDTY has provided thousands of resources on how to beat asthma, arthritis, depression and many other chronic conditions.

Start by looking in our fully searchable database, active and friendly community forums and the latest health news.

Positive SSL Wildcard

Facebook Twitter

Most Popular Health Website of the Year 2014

© 2010 - 2017 WDDTY Publishing Ltd.
All Rights Reserved