title: 'Back pain relief' published: true publish_date: '31-08-2016 14:56' taxonomy: category:

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    Millions of people in Britain suffer back pain and for many of them it's a deeply debilitating problem. But now researchers in Denmark say a simple course of antibiotics could cure up to 40% of them. VoRís Nima Green reports. Danish researchers discovered many of the worst cases of persistent pain are due to bacterial infections, not damaged discs as previously thought. It's a finding that some scientists are hailing as worthy of a Nobel Prize. Bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes are more commonly known for causing spots. But now it seems that these bugs are also responsible for causing persistent back pain, making many peopleís lives a misery. It seems that bacteria can invade the spinal column and cause chronic symptoms in some people. Around five million people in Britain will suffer chronic back pain at some point in their lives, sometimes so debilitating that it prevents them from working. And this latest breakthrough means that potentially half a million of these patients will no longer have to undergo major surgery. The research team from the University of Southern Denmark have found that an inexpensive 100 day course of antibiotics, costing just £114, could relieve back pain in nearly half of all cases. Peter Hamlyn, one of the UKís leading spinal surgeons, said that the shock finding is so important that itís worth a Nobel Prize. Dr Hamlyn said that he has worked with the head of the Danish research team Dr Hanne Albert, and has used the antibiotic treatment she devised on his own patients in the last couple of years. The treatment for serious cases of back pain, often caused by slipped discs, requires an MRI scan to detect changes in the spinal column, which costs around 200-500 pounds on the NHS. This helps to diagnose whether there is a bacterial infection inside the discs. The bacteria usually lurk in our mouths but can get into the blood stream when we brush our teeth. This then spreads to the blood vessels inside a slipped disc and grows, causing serious inflammation. Peter Hamlyn said that the treatment of this will help to change people's lives. But not all doctors are convinced that the discovery is such a breakthrough. Professor Martin Underwood is a GP and Professor of Primary Care at Warwick University, who has done research into the diagnosis and management of back pain. He is cautious about the research based on just 162 patients and says that there is still uncertainty over the findings. Professor Underwood also said that patients shouldnít get their hopes up too much and self-medicate, and that there are also concerns over antibiotic resistance. However,the Danish researchers say that the antibiotic treatment is only for some patients, and that there is a limited chance of superbugs or resistance developing. Currently, the NHS spends more than £1billion a year on treating back pain, including around £500 million on surgery, while sick days and long-term disability cost the economy at least £3.5 billion annually in lost productivity. Peter Hamlyn said that the reduction in back operations could save the NHS 100ís of millions of pounds. The discovery could offer relief for hundreds of thousands of sufferers of one of the commonest and most debilitating ailments. A spokesman for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which recommends which treatments are funded by the NHS, said the research would be considered next time its guidelines on back pain are reviewed.

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