Recently, the media and our blog reported that Michael Phelps as well as other athletes this year had embraced the practice of cupping, where suction cups would be placed on the skin to loosen tight muscles and improve mobility.
When it comes to athletes, perceived benefits and the enhanced mental state it brings is good enough, and since cupping of one sort or another has been around for years, one must wonder why. While there are different theories as to how it works, modern cupping methods use sliding and do not use heat, which can be dangerous if used improperly.
The good news is that cupping if done properly is inexpensive, has a perceived benefit and is safe if done properly.
Surgery on the other hand, can have huge side effects in portions of the population, and if done for the wrong reasons, can have devastating effects. We have seen this with failed back surgery which can result in lifetime disability and chronic pain for life. On the other hand, when compared to many non invasive methods, with chiropractors being the most effective as per Consumer Reports and Bottom Line Personal, two years later, the difference between those who had surgery and those who did not, the two groups had a similar benefit, with the lower risk on the side of the chiropractor.
Meniscus surgery for knee pain is another one of those surgeries whose value needs to be questioned, especially in those who are middle aged, since many who have had these surgeries often have a second or third with little perceived value in most patients. Even when compared to fake surgeries, the result seems to be the same. Often these same patients will do much better by seeing a chiropractor, since knee pain is usually a function of hip and foot problems and secondary problems with pelvic stability. The worst part of all of this is the cost of the surgeon, the anesthesiologist and finally the facility, which can often cost thousands for little or no benefit
Why does the system continue to pay for these sham surgeries, even though the data is more convincing than ever that these procedures are not often helpful, and can lead to problems such as infection, other functional issues and of course a lighter wallet.
Part of the problem begins in primary care, which has been limited to 10 minute office visits and many patients are just referred to orthopedists who cherry pick who they can justify operating on. Part of this is the willingness of insurers to pay for something that is ineffective and part of this is the systems set up by insurers to sideline practitioners who are less expensive, while paying for more expensive methods that are less effective. Recently, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield introduced their Omnia product that as many buyers found, had two chiropractors per county in the lower priced tier, while all others had higher copayments and deductibles, even though they were participating in the plan. This makes little sense if you are trying to save money for you, the consumer but are they? Probably not if you read our post on the Obamacare 80/20 rule.
Yet, at the Olympics, the athletes have multidisciplinary teams, and the medical director is a chiropractor, and the athletes often visit them first, knowing full well who is likely to get them out of pain best, or help them to compete better or just become more limber before their next event without the use of drugs or surgery.
As a consumer of healthcare services in the USA, it is now, more than ever important to choose your healthcare services wisely, since you may not be paying for it financially, but if something goes wrong, it can have a marked effect on your life. Always consider conservative care first, before considering most surgeries.
Check out this article from the NY Times.
Why “Useless”™ Surgery Is Still Popular
Gina Kolata @ginakolata AUG. 3, 2016
Before a drug can be marketed, it has to go through rigorous testing to show it is safe and effective. Surgery, though, is different. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate surgical procedures. So what happens when an operation is subjected to and fails the ultimate test “” a clinical trial in which patients are randomly assigned to have it or not?
The expectation is that medical practice will change if an operation turns out not to help.