The Guardian

What can doctors do for your back pain? Not as much as you can | Ranjana Srivastava

Opioids don’t work. Surgery and injections rarely do, and scans are unnecessary. Better to get moving
‘Patients feel cheated when the neighbour, colleague and spouse seem to obtain an immediate MRI, a script for morphine, and a neurosurgery referral.’ Photograph: baona/Getty Images/iStockphoto

“I’m sorry you’re in pain.”

“You have no idea,” she growls. She is a middle-aged, obese woman with chronic back pain admitted to hospital for the third time in a year.

“Will you at least talk to the physio?”

She has stayed put in bed, refusing to move, and the nurses are tired.

“No, he can take you for a walk.”

This isn’t going well, I rue.

“And you won’t increase my morphine!” she harrumphs.

“I’d like to manage your pain in other ways. Opioids don’t help in this situation and there can be serious side effects.”

“My doctor always gives me a script.”

Now, I am treading the fine line

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