In years past, most medical practitioners recommend prescribing opioids and spinal fusion surgery as the first course of action for individuals that suffer from low back pain. Now, this is quickly becoming a course of treatment of the past.

Woman with lower back pain

One patient got up and used his wound care supplies to tape his hospital door shut….” – Adele Levine

In January of 2018, the agency in Ohio that directly oversees the worker’s compensation program within their state officially put an end to the use of opioids and potentially-dangerous spinal fusion surgery as a means of initial treatments for back pain sufferers that received their injuries while working. Now, individuals that experience problems with their back after becoming injured at work must engage in approximately two months’ worth of non-surgical treatments – specifically, physical therapy – before engaging in other types of treatments.

Essentially, this means that the agency is now restricting payments for potentially addictive drugs and potentially harmful and unnecessary back surgeries.

In the past, other states restricted surgeries as a first course of action; however, Ohio is the first to restrict the usage of prescription opioids.

The recommended courses of action for those that receive a work-related injury to the back include bed rest, chiropractic care, as well as physical therapy.

This comes as a result of discovering that opioids are being inappropriately and overprescribed and that spinal fusion surgery may prove to be highly ineffective.

In the past, Colorado, Washington, and Minnesota have restricted payments for surgeries for work-related back injuries; however, Ohio is taking this just a step further in restricting payments for opioid prescriptions. While this comes as welcomed news to many, others are not so pleased about this level of enforcement. Ohio is a state that has seen numerous overdoses and addictions to opioids. In fact, it has found that a large portion of people suffering from heroin addiction started their addiction with an opioid prescription.

There are exceptions to the new legislation going into effect in the State of Ohio. If a patient has a severe injury and must have surgery and medications, they will be able to receive both. However, if the case is not severe enough to justify it, they must engage in an alternative treatment for at least 60 days. Many argue that the new rule will place unnecessary time to recovery for the patient and unnecessary expenses. They state that the 60 days is a waste of time for their patients and the alternative treatments may not prove to be effective.

However, according to studies, more patients are able to successfully go back to work after receiving alternative treatments than after receiving surgery. This is the grounds for this new rule. When it comes to optimal patient outcomes, the non-invasive treatments continuously win out. Now, Ohio is taking the lead in ensuring value-based care for all patients, reducing the effects of the opioid crisis, and reducing the costs of unnecessary surgical treatments.