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Danish researchers claim that antibiotics could cure 40% of chronic back pain patients

Home/News/Danish researchers claim that antibiotics could cure 40% of chronic back pain patients

Source The Guardian

Up to 40% of patients with chronic back pain could be cured with a course of antibiotics rather than surgery, in a medical breakthrough that one spinal surgeon says is worthy of a Nobel prize. Surgeons in the UK and elsewhere are reviewing how they treat patients with chronic back pain after scientists discovered that many of the worst cases were due to bacterial infections.

The shock finding means that scores of patients with unrelenting lower back pain will no longer face major operations but can instead be cured with courses of antibiotics costing around £114. One of the UK’s most eminent spinal surgeons said the discovery was the greatest he had witnessed in his professional life, and that its impact on medicine was worthy of a Nobel prize.

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

Specialists who deal with back pain have long known that infections are sometimes to blame, but these cases were thought to be exceptional. That thinking has been overturned by scientists at the University of Southern Denmark who found that 20% to 40% of chronic lower back pain was caused by bacterial infections.

“This will not help people with normal back pain, those with acute, or sub-acute pain – only those with chronic lower back pain,” Dr Hanne Albert, of the Danish research team, told the Guardian. “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.”

The Danish team describe their work in two papers published in the European Spine Journal. In the first report, they explain how bacterial infections inside slipped discs can cause painful inflammation and tiny fractures in the surrounding vertebrae.

In the second paper, the scientists proved they could cure chronic back pain with a 100-day course of antibiotics. In a randomised trial, the drugs reduced pain in 80% of patients who had suffered for more than six months and had signs of damaged vertebra under MRI scans.

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  1. Frank M. Painter, D.C. May 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    This cracks me up!

    100 days on antibiotics?

    No wonder most of them stopped complaining of back pain, as their digestive systems were collapsing under the constant assault on the normal flora of the intestines.

    I’d like to see the follow-up on these patients. 3, 6 and 12 months afrer discontinuing the antibiotics.

  2. It is so simple and logical that if your alignment on your car is off your tires wear unevenly and rapidly. If you spinal alignment is off your discs wear unevenly and faster than the body’s innate capacity to repair. But since the medical profession has nothing they can do about spinal alignment they are willing to subject patients through an immune-battering 100 day course of antibiotics. wouldn’t it be so much simpler, and more ethical, to first refer to a chiropractor to deal with degenerative changes in the disc?
    The connection to infection is not surprising, though. We Chiropractors have always known that when the nervous system suffers, not only do tissues of the body degenerate, but the immune system weakens also. They are both common effects of a singular cause.
    Thanks for providing such great content on
    Steve Ranicki, DC

  3. Dr Christopher Butler May 17, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    I wonder what will be the drawback of that 100 day course of anitbiotics

  4. Weston Hopkins DC May 18, 2013 at 3:23 pm


    The study follows up one year post discontinuation of antibiotics and most outcome markers seem to be statistically and clinically significant at this follow up.

    Pretty cool study in my opinion but obviously needs to be replicated.

  5. Vira Lisa June 14, 2013 at 2:02 am

    I just can’t imagine myself taking antibiotics for a hundred days. Anyway, this is very interesting. Thanks for sharing this article.

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