Episode 253 - Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, part 1: Crooked; Outwitting the Back Pain Industry

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In episode episode 253 I’m speaking with Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, an investigative journalist and author of Crooked, Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery.  She shares her personal experience with persisting back pain, the various attempts for relief, failures and the resultant book.  This week on MCF!

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Show Notes


Cathryn Jakobson Ramin is an American journalist, investigative reporter, and author. She has published two books, Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery and Carved in Sand: When Attention Fails and Memory Fades in Midlife, which became a 'New York Times' bestseller.

Personal Account of Low Back Pain

Cathryn gives a background of her episodes of low back pain since teenage years which were self-limiting; her initial self-management and seeking care for conservative management of symptoms when she had subsequent episodes with limited effective results. She then talks about the recurrence in 2007 with progressively worsening of symptoms and significant effect on her well being that lead her to the initial consultation with PCP and the subsequent maze of our health care system. 

Writing a Book

As she was personally navigating the health care system the investigative reporter in her realized that there were huge gaps in the industry for effective management of low back pain. It took her 8 long years to research and complete the project. 

Experiences as a Patient

Cathryn talks about feeling desperate and scared as a patient trying to find an effective solution to her pain. She also found herself at one of the clinics for minimally invasive spine surgery which sounded promising, but soon realized, that their claims were misleading. She later found herself in extensive rehab when she was told that she will need lifelong exercise regimen.  

Reliable Diagnosis of Pain

Cathryn talks about how physicians give patients an endless series of terrifying patho-anatomical diagnoses, and how patients shop for physicians due to lack of reliable answers for their condition. Cathryn feels that once serious spinal pathology is ruled out, the best way to manage low back pain is exercise; but fails to realize the importance of classification and the right direction for exercise. 

Screening Questions and Advice

Cathryn lists her basic questions for screening and referring to conservative health care practitioners those who approach her with their questions about back pain management. She feels that movement/exercise is the most crucial thing for management of low back pain.