Medicare change could affect how doctors treat back pain

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It’s one of the most popular ways to alleviate neck and back pain and more people are turning to steroid shots to treat persistent pain.

Starting next year, Medicare could be scaling back on those treatments.

LaDonna Robson has been receiving steroid injections in her back for nearly five years.

Robson said, “Before I had surgery, I couldn’t stand up straight. I was being pulled to the left.”

Even after surgery, Robson, who is nearly 70-years-old, still suffers from lower back pain.

She said, “It feels like you’re being stabbed with a knife.”

Robson receives six injections, three times a year from Dr. Daniel Burkhead, a pain management physician.

Dr. Burkhead said, “If a patient has several areas of problem, then we need to inject all of those areas in order for the treatment to be effective.”

Medicare is proposing to limit the number of injections Burkhead can give his patients.

He said, “They’re going to limit it to no more than two injections for the entire procedure.”

Robson said, “It doesn’t make any sense to me so I am not a happy camper.”

Medicare says it’s a safety issue.

Over time, injections can weaken your bones and studies show that after two injections, the patient sees no benefit.

Instead of surgery or other therapies, Burkhead is afraid his patients will turn to addictive painkillers.

He said, “There’s a good number of patients that may require opiates, pain narcotics.”

Robson says that’s not an option.

She said, “I refuse to take narcotics. I’m active and I want to stay that way.”

If the proposal goes into effect, Medicare says patients can always appeal.

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