Research on Back Pain Throws Up New Findings

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back pain

Back pain affects large numbers of people globally, some of whom may need to be in bed for long periods of time or even need hospitalization or surgery. According to the National Institute of Health, 70-85 percent of all people have back pain some time or the other. Back pain actually results in people below 45 having to limit their physical activities. At any given time, 31 million people in America alone suffer from lower back pain and $50 billion are spent on this disorder. Low back pain sufferers may take a lot of different pain killing medicines and other treatments like physiotherapy, ultrasound treatments, TNS and others that are current in use in modern medicine. Millions of others opt for alternative remedies and go to chiropractors and acupuncturists. And millions keep suffering from varying degrees on pain constantly or intermittently.

Dependence on unnecessary diagnostic procedures

According to a new report published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a research team led by John N. Mafi, M.D., of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston went through data collected from January 1999 to December 2010. The data concerned 24,000 medical visits that were related to back pain. The study concluded that most doctors do not follow national guidelines saying routine back pain should be treated by physical therapy, heating pads and conventional pain killers. However, doctors are increasing using extremely aggressive and often uncalled for procedures like MRI and other imaging scans and prescribing addicting medications like narcotics.

The study found that while the number of X-rays remained stable, the CT scans and MRIs have risen from 7 percent to 11 percent, exposing more people to radiation, apart from increasing their expenditure. The use of painkillers like acetaminophen and aspirin or similar drugs has fallen from 37 percent to 24.5 percent while the use of narcotics has risen from 19 percent to 29 percent.

As this has happened over a two year period, it seems that the situation is only going to get worse as increasingly patients look for quick-fix cures (or at least symptomatic relief, which is what most back pain medicines offer) and doctors don’t want to take the trouble to diagnose and treat patients in a more conservative manner.

Research study says that antibiotics may help with back pain

A study published in The European Spine Journal and led by Hanne B. Albert, PhD, Research Department of the Spine Center of Southern Denmark, University of Southern Denmark, Odense found that 40 percent of chronic lower back pain may be bacterial in origin. The study was a small double blind random study and followed only 162 patients who had suffered from Modic changes in their vertebrae following disc herniation.

Patients were put on a 100-day course of antibiotics – the long course necessitated by the fact that spinal discs have very limited blood supply – and after that time those who took the antibiotics had less pain and disability and fewer days off work than those who took placebos.

While some doctors have hailed this study as a revolutionary treatment, others have cautioned against the indiscriminate use of antibiotics (in this case amoxicillin and clavulanate) and its side effects like colitis, diarrhea and intestinal disturbances. They also feel that the study’s findings should be replicated on a larger scale before being used. If the study is validated and replicated, then it will offer a new treatment option to chronic back pain sufferers.