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Antibiotics could cure chronic lower back pain: the end of surgery for up to 40% of patients

Back pain
Antibiotics may help cure lower back pain in 40% of cases

Back pain is a common and sometimes life changing condition affecting up to 4 million people in Britain at some point in their lives. Those who suffer from chronic lower back pain are often resigned to living with the condition long term or have to face the prospect of surgery to correct the problem, which in itself can result in complications. This may all be about to change though for around 40% of chronic lower back pain sufferers, with the announcement that ground-breaking research may have found the answer - antibiotics.

The studies: testing positive for infection

Over the past 10 years researchers in Denmark have been examining chronic lower back pain which has resulted in highly interesting findings. In their first study, 61 patients were examined who had suffered from a disc herniation (also known as a slipped disc) and it was found that nearly half of them tested positive for infection, particularly for the bug Propionibacterium acne, which is normally harmless. It is thought that this bacterium is held within the blood vessels of the disc and this results in inflammation and pain, but could be treated with antibiotics as in the case of other bacterial infections.

To find out if this theory was correct, the same group of scientists conducted a trial which involved 162 patients who were randomly assigned to a 100 day course of the antibiotic Bioclavid or a placebo group (they did not receive antibiotics). This resulted in 80% of the patients who had received treatment having their pain significantly reduced, with the treatment being significantly more effective in comparison to the placebo group. This is an exciting finding and could change the way chronic lower back pain is treated in the future.

What next? The future for back pain treatment

Peter Hamlyn, a neurosurgeon and founder of the Brain and Spine Foundation, is also welcoming this breakthrough and has highly praised the researchers in Denmark. With these remarkable findings in mind, future research should focus on increasing the number of patients who may benefit from this treatment in order to reduce the need for spinal surgery and in turn reduce costs, time and unnecessary suffering.

Further reading

Read the studies in full here :