Brett Smith for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
A groundbreaking study from a well-renowned team of Danish researchers could bring unprecedented relief for sufferers of chronic back pain.
According to the study, which appeared in the European Spine Journal, as much as 40 percent of chronic lower back pain is caused by bacteria. Treating these patients with antibiotics has resulted in a significant amount of relief and increased quality of life when compared to those patients taking a placebo.
“In people who received the placebo, nothing happened,” said lead author Hanne B. Albert, an associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark, at a press conference in London. “People on the antibiotics attained highly clinically significant improvement.”
Besides experiencing relief from back pain, patients who were prescribed the antibiotics had better overall functioning, less leg pain and missed fewer days of work due to their condition, they reported after one year of treatment.
To reach their conclusion, the Danish researchers conducted two studies. First, they discovered bacterial infections in 46 percent of patients suffering from constant lower back pain after a slipped or herniated disc. Many of these patients were successfully treated with antibiotics.
The second study involved the antibiotic combination amoxicillin and clavulanate for patients with the same condition. The researchers found 80 percent were cured or saw a marked reduction in pain levels.
John O´Dowd, president of the British Society for Back Pain Research, told The Telegraph the results are encouraging.
“It is a very striking study, and those behind it are a very high caliber group of scientists,” he said. “This is definitely something we need to take seriously but the results are very surprising and this is an area where there is a great deal of uncertainty.”
O´Dowd recommended experts conduct further trials before official treatments for the condition are altered.
“I wouldn´t want to see a great rush to market this as the best response to chronic lower back pain until that has been done,” he said.
Peter Hamlyn, a neurologist and spinal surgeon at University College London Hospital, had even higher praise for the study and said it could have life-changing impacts for many people who are in pain or disabled.
“Make no mistake this is a turning point, a point where we will have to re-write the textbooks,” he told The Telegraph. “It is the stuff of Nobel prizes.”
However, not everyone in the scientific community embraced the study´s results with such enthusiasm. Infection experts cited the growing number of antibiotic-resistant ℠superbugs´ and warned against the overuse of antibiotics.
Laura Piddock, a microbiology professor at the University of Birmingham, told The Telegraph antibiotics should only be prescribed if there is the positive identification of a bacterial cause. She warned against “needlessly” exposing too many patients to the drugs that can also cause other minor side effects.
Chronic back pain is pervasive throughout society, affecting 31 million Americans at “any given time,” according to the American Chiropractic Association. Sufferers also feel the financial pinch of their condition, as back pain is one of the most common reasons for missing work.