[originally published in KCN, May 2009]
As I read the recent press release of the survey on back pain conducted by Consumer Reports from 14,000+ of its subscriber base, I flashed back to the Richard Dawson-version of the Family Feud from the 1970’s. This was a TV game show in which two families were pit against one another to come up with the most popular responses to “survey-type” questions. Richard would start the battle by shouting, “Let’s play the Feud!”
….Two representatives from each family meet at center stage at the “face off.” A handshake exchanges, and Richard then poses the question: “Top 5 answers on the Board. Name the health professional that 14,000+ Consumer Reports subscribers were more likely to be ‘highly satisfied’ with when it came to treating their back pain.”
The two contestants hands slam down on their buzzers: “BloobaBloobaLoop!”
The Jones Family is the first to buzz in: “Their doctor,” the family representative answers.
Then Richard, along with everyone else, looks to the Board and he shouts, “Survey says!”
And then, as if someone hiding behind the game board manually turns the the number 5 position, up pops “Physician, Primary Care (34%).” Good news for the Smith Family. If they can name one of higher ranking, they’ll get control of the round.
Mr. Smith leans into the microphone, causing his voice to over-modulate, and answers, “I’m going to say Neurologist.”
Richard looks to the Board once again and shouts the familiar, “Survey says!”
There is a brief hesitation behind the Board, and then the #4 slot rotates to reveal “Physician, Specialist (44%).”
At this point the Smith Family has control, and they decide to play the round through. Richard approaches Mrs. Smith and plants a kiss right on her lips — his signature for every female contestant. She enthusiastically answers the question with “Aromatherapist!” which quickly gets shot down with the Red Digital “X” on the TV screen along with the classic gynasium buzzer sound. Two more of those and the Jones Family will have a chance to steal.
“Acupuncturist” turns the #3 slot at 53%.
“Top two answers remain on the Board,” Richard reminds as he steals another kiss from a female Smith. A blank look is on her face. Her forehead wrinkles. Richard repeats the query: “Name the health professional people are highly satisfied with when it comes to treating their back pain.” The blank look continues. She tries stalling a bit. Richard catches on and gives her “3 seconds.”
Then, just in the nick of time, she answers, “Physical Therapist.” Her family claps and encourages her with shouts of “Good answer! Good answer!”
Richard looks to the Board and shouts, “Survey says!”
Ding! Physical Therapist (55%) rolls into the number two slot. The Smith Family is very excited.
Richard moves down to the next family member and shakes the hand of a very confident looking male Smith. “We’re looking for the number one health professional people are highly satisfied with when it comes to treating their back pain,” Richard reads off his blue index card.
“It’s got to be their Chiropractor,” the confident male Smith responds.
Richard gives a nod of approval, turns to the Board and shouts, “Show me Chiropractor!”
The number one slot flips to reveal “Chiropractor (59%).”
The Smith Family leaps for joy as the Family Feud theme music blares in the background….
It was at about this point that my flashback stopped, and I began to flesh out some of the details of the survey results. The 14,000+ subscribers that were questioned had had back pain within the past year but had never had back surgery. They were asked to rate a comprehensive list of potential remedies along with their satisfaction of the health-professionals that they had visited. On average most respondents had tried 5 to 6 different treatments.
As for the effectiveness of the different therapies (a subtle difference from the satisfaction question) 58% rated chiropractic as “helping a lot.” Runners up were massage therapy at 48% and physical therapy at 46%.
The top “self-help” measure was given to exercise (44%). Interestingly, prescription drugs came in at at similar ranking (45%).
Consumer Reports explains that the value of a survey such as this is that it gives you “real life” accounts of thousands of people. And while randomized-controlled clinical studies are considered the “gold standard,” they have their limitations and are usually restricted in the number of people that the findings might apply to. But, when looking at this survey, one needs to remember that the Consumer Reports subscriber base is not necessarily representative of everyone. Their subscribers are typically white, highly educated, and of higher socioeconomic standing. That said though, the findings are nonetheless compelling and should provide good points of discussion when faced with options regarding back pain treatment.
You can read for yourself what the “Survey says!” at www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org.
Source used for this article:
PR Newswire. Consumer Reports Survey: Hands-on therapies among top-rated treatments for back pain. Found on http://www.breitbart.com April 6, 2009. http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=prnw.20090406.DC95238&show_article=1
Consumer Reports. Relief for aching backs: hands-on therapies were top-rated by 14,000 consumers. http://www.ConsumerReports.org. May 2009.
info on their survey in general:
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