The news that broke today that over 40% of all chronic back pain could be due to a specific bacterium, Proprionibacterium Acnes, the bacterium that causes acne. This is a revelational step in an industry that has for many years struggled with a true understanding of what could be the cause of intractable back pain.
As osteopaths we pride ourselves on our crisp and accurate biomechanical diagnostic skills, which are effective in treating many types of back pain. It has, however, also been clear, as it has been for our sister profession physiotherapy, that there are many people who suffer long-term back pain, for whom improving the mechanics and strengthening their core muscles makes no difference whatsoever. This study could pave the way to helping those who we in the manual therapy professions find so frustrating to treat, and it could save the health service an absolute shedload of money.
There are two papers on the subject, both of which were published in the European Spine Journal, and are linked here. In the first study, Hanne B. Albert PT., MPH., Ph.D., from The Back Research Centre, University of Southern Denmark, and team demonstrated how bacteria invade the injury sites of slipped discs and cause painful inflammation, and harm surrounding vertebrae.
In the second study, Hanne B. Albert PT., MPH., Ph.D. tried out an antibiotic combination treatment, based on their discovery. They recruited 162 volunteers, all of them chronic back pain sufferers (back pain that has lasted for more than 6 months). All of the participants had had a slipped disk and had signs of bone swelling.
Several newspapers published stories on the research and findings:
- Miracle cure for back pain: Agony ended by everyday antibiotics, The Express Newspaper, 8 May 2013
- Antibiotics could cure 40% of chronic back pain patients, The Guardian, 7 May 2013
- Antibiotics could cure 40pc of chronic back pain patients, The Telegraph, 8 May 2013