WRONG TREATMENT FOR CHRONIC BACK PAIN INCREASES SICK LEAVE RATES, SAY EXPERTS

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Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s pain management expert recommends that patients see a specialist to find and treat the underlying cause of the pain

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Chronic back pain is not a disorder but a symptom of other medical problems that requires a detailed assessment and treatment plan to address the root cause and avoid repeated sickness absenteeism from work and disability, says a pain management expert at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health.

The 2019 Global Burden of Disease Study, published last year, estimates that low back pain is among the top 10 diseases and injuries that account for the highest number of disability-adjusted life years (DALY) worldwide. This debilitating pain affects more than 540 million people globally, but is largely treated improperly according to experts. It is one of the top reasons for hospitalization and the second leading cause of missed work in many Western countries.

“Back pain is the most common reason patients come to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s pain management clinic. At some point in life, everyone will experience some degree of back pain. While the acute pain can be caused by a sudden injury to the muscles and ligaments supporting the back and goes away after a few days of care, a chronic condition needs a more intensive pain management plan,” says Dr. Reda Tolba, the Department Chair of the Pain Management Department in the Anesthesiology Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

Dr. Tolba explains that chronic back pain can be a cumulative response to other conditions, such as arthritis of the spine, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, herniated disc, myofascial pain, and even a patient’s lifestyle. A proper diagnosis can be achieved by assessing the patient’s medical history, a physical exam, and investigative studies, such as x-rays, MRI or CT scans, if necessary.

“When patients come to us, they’ve already spent years suffering from back pain that has affected their normal day-to-day activities and kept them away from work for an extended period of time. Patients are usually seen by a primary care or emergency medicine physician for an initial assessment and are given symptomatic treatments such as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and painkillers. They only see a pain medicine physician much later when the pain gets worse.”

He says that there needs to be more awareness among physicians for proper and timely referral to pain specialists to avoid the burden of lower back pain on patients, the economy and wider healthcare system.

“During my time in the United States, I saw a lot of patients who would file for disability because they ignored issues such as herniated discs exacerbated by their physical jobs or other neurological symptoms that were so severe that they couldn’t go into work anymore. It has become one of the most common causes of disability worldwide.”

At Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, patients with back pain are offered a range of management plans, which involve innovative cutting-edge procedures to help patients suffering from excruciating pain. Those procedures are in conjunction with physical therapy and a diet plan to address underlying lifestyle issues. Patients are also educated on proper ergonomics and how to lift weights to avoid injuries, and are given at-home exercises to strengthen their core to help with their chronic low back pain.

“Patients can have long periods of pain relief as long as they follow the plan and see their specialist regularly. Our aim is to not only help reduce their pain but maximize their functional performance in daily life and productivity at work,” says Dr. Tolba.

About Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi:

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health, is a multispecialty hospital on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a unique and unparalleled extension of US-based Cleveland Clinic’s model of care, specifically designed to address a range of complex and critical care requirements unique to the Abu Dhabi population.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has the following Institutes: Heart & Vascular, Neurological, Digestive Disease, Eye, Respiratory, Critical Care, Surgical Subspecialties, Medical Subspecialties, Emergency Medicine, Anesthesiology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Imaging, Quality & Patient Safety, and Clinical & Nursing. In all, more than 40 medical and surgical specialties are represented at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The facilities at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi combine state-of-the-art amenities and world-class service standards. The hospital is a 394 (expandable to 490) bed facility, with five clinical floors, three diagnostic and treatment levels, and 13 floors of critical and acute inpatient units. It is a physician-led medical facility served by North American/European Board Certified (or equivalent) physicians. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi provides patients in the region direct access to the world’s best healthcare providers and Cleveland Clinic’s unique model of care, reducing their need to travel abroad for treatment.

About Mubadala Health:

Mubadala Health is the integrated healthcare network of Mubadala Investment Company. Established 2021, Mubadala Health operates, manages, and develops a portfolio of healthcare assets including: Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre (ADTC), Amana Healthcare, Capital Health Screening Centre (CHSC), Healthpoint, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), and National Reference Laboratory (NRL). In addition, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is an integral part of Mubadala Health. With a vision to transform the regional healthcare landscape, Mubadala Health sets a new benchmark for the UAE and regional healthcare industry through its state-of-the-art facilities and world-class caregivers who strive to put patients first across its continuum of care. Innovation, research, and education are the foundational pillars of Mubadala Health, supporting the further development of a sustainable healthcare sector in line with the vision of Abu Dhabi and the region.