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Lower Back Pain Curable Via Antibiotics Nearly Half Of The Time: A Study

May 10, 2013 12:09 PM EDT
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Back pain may be cured by a simple dose of antibiotics up to 40 percent of the time, based on a new study one spinal surgeon says is worthy of a Nobel prize.

“This is vast,” Peter Hamlyn, a consultant neurological and spinal surgeon at University College London hospital, told The Guardian. “We are talking about probably half of all spinal surgery for back pain being replaced by taking antibiotics.”

While specialists have long known that infections are sometimes to blame for back pain, these cases were previously thought to be rare.

However, as the study published by the European Spine Journal reports, in a double-blind study of 162 patients, a total of 80 percent of participants with persistent back pain following a herniated disc and swelling in the spine reported an improvement after taking antibiotics three times daily for 100 days.

Specifically, the pain is caused by an infection of Proprione acne bacteria located inside the spinal disc, according to study researcher Hanne B. Albert – the same bacteria that normally live in hair follicles and the gums and are known to cause acne. However, Albert believes they may enter the bloodstream as a result of teeth brushing and travel into the damaged disc.

Going forward, researchers hope to effectively spread the word of the study in order to prevent needless surgeries as well as to cut back on health care costs.

“We have to spread the word to the public, and to educate the clinicians, so the right people get the right treatment, and in five years’ time are not having unnecessary surgery,” Albert further told the UK-based news outlet.

However, the scientist does believe the antibiotic regimen is appropriate for everyone with lower back pain and should not be administered, for example, to those with allergies.

“This will not help people with normal back pain, those with cute, or subacute pain – only those with chronic lower back pain,” she said. “These are people who live a life on the edge because they are so handicapped with pain. We are returning them to a form of normality they would never have expected.”

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