If I told you that there was an enterprise that charges its customer base $100 billion annually and fails to deliver what it says it’s selling, you’d wonder how it could exist. If I then told you that the same enterprise causes irreparable physical damage to its clients, makes false promises, bends government policy to its will or sometimes breaks the law altogether, and gets people hooked on mind-altering drugs, you’d probably demand an immediate investigation and lengthy prison sentences for those involved.
But according to a new book by Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, that’s exactly what’s going on in the back pain industry. Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery is a landmark expose of the snake oil salesmen, charlatans, and other shady characters who have been promising relief, but making the problem worse for decades. An investigative journalist by trade, Cathryn’s exploration into the dark and bloody history of back pain treatment was motivated by her own lifelong suffering.
The research she presents is as jaw-dropping as some of the stories she tells from inside the industry, from sham procedures to downright greasy business practices, to lives ruined by poor practices and practitioners. But don’t lose heart: the second half of her book also details a variety of therapeutic approaches that are proven to work. Whether you’ve just thrown your back out or have dealt with chronic back pain for years, this is an episode that might just change your life.