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Back Pain Therapy Often Yields Early Benefits: Study

MONDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- People who receive treatment for chronic and acute low-back pain show significant improvement in the first six weeks, but may still have some pain and disability after one year, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data from 33 studies that included more than 11,000 patients to learn more about how treatment affects low-back pain. Their findings appear in the May 14 online edition of CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.

"Our review confirms the broad finding of previous reviews that the typical course of acute low-back pain is initially favorable: there is a marked reduction in mean pain and disability in the first six weeks," Dr. Christopher Maher, director of the musculoskeletal division at the George Institute for Global Health of the University of Sydney in Australia, said in a journal news release.

"Beyond six weeks, improvement slows and thereafter only small reductions in mean pain and disability are apparent up to one year," he added.

One year after beginning treatment, the typical improvement in pain intensity was about 90 percent for patients who had acute low-back pain and about 50 percent for those who had chronic low-back pain, the investigators found.

"There is both good and bad news in our review. It is great that people improve with care, but arguably there is room to do better, particularly for people with persistent low-back pain," Maher said.

"Generally, when people see results like this they want to blame the clinician, but I think that is short-sighted," he added. "One of the principal reasons we have not made more progress in the back pain field is that research agencies do not take back pain research seriously. Around the world, back pain research is hugely underfunded relative to the burden of the disease. It's time for that to change."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about back pain.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: CMAJ, news release, May 14, 2012

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