Focus Area: Low Back Pain

Low Back Pain

Low back pain is one of the most common causes of disability in the country; over 80% of Americans will experience low back pain in their lifetime. Imaging tests (including CT scans, MRIs, and X-rays) are commonly performed to diagnose the seriousness of the condition. However, most patients do not benefit from imaging studies and may be unnecessarily exposed to harmful radiation. With a high number of Californians receiving inappropriate diagnostic imaging, there is a compelling need to reduce over-testing and ensure appropriate and evidence based use of imaging resources. Links to key resources collected by the Workgroup are included below. 


How Too Many Tests Can Cause Lifelong Harm (Consumer Reports)

Imaging Tests for Lower-Back Pain: You Probably Do Not Need an X-ray, CT Scan, or MRI (Consumer Reports)

Prioritizing Opportunities for Reducing Inappropriate Care: Imaging for Nonspecific Low Back Pain (Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, 2014)


Spine Pain & Opioids: A Tale of Two Epidemics (Eugene Hsu, MD, MBA, Stanford CERC, Smart Care California Meeting, January 2017)

Pain Center of Excellence (Tobias Moeller-Bertram, MD, PhD, MAS, Desert Clinic Pain Institute & Jennifer Sayles, MD, MPH, Inland Empire Health Plan, Smart Care California Meeting, January 2017)

Reducing Low Back Pain Imaging - Implementing Choosing Wisely (Parag Agnihotri, MD, Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, Smart Care California Meeting, October 2015)

Right Study, Right Patient, Right Time: Reducing Inappropriate Imaging for Low Back Pain (Jennifer Sayles, MD, MPH, LA County Department of Health Services, Smart Care California Meeting, October 2015)