BOUNCING BACK ANTIBIOTICS CAN RELIEVE BACK PAIN CAUSED BY BACTERIAL INFECTIONS Series: MY ACHING BACK

Article excerpt

A discovery by researchers at the University of Southern Denmark, confirmed by a trial in Britain, offers the prospect of relief for millions who suffer from chronic low back pain.

In two papers published in the European Spine Journal in April, the Danish scientists reported they'd found that at least 20 percent, and perhaps as much as 40 percent, of all chronic low back pain is caused by bacterial infections.

One of Britain's most eminent spine surgeons said the discovery is the most important he's witnessed in his professional life, because bacterial infections can be cured by antibiotics, he told the Guardian newspaper.

"This is vast," said Peter Hamlyn, "We are talking about probably half of all spinal surgery for back pain being replaced by antibiotics."

In the first paper, the Danish scientists explained how bacterial infections inside slipped disks can cause painful inflammation, and tiny fractures in surrounding vertebrae.

The vertebrae (bones) of the spine are cushioned by small, spongy disks which, when healthy, act as shock absorbers. But when damaged, a disk may bulge or break open. This is called a herniated, or slipped disk. When a herniated disk presses against nerve roots, it causes pain.

The bacteria Propionibacterium acnes is better known for causing acne, but normally causes no other harm. But when a person suffers a slipped disk, the body grows small blood vessels into the disk. The body does this to facilitate healing, but the small blood vessels can ferry bacteria into the herniated disk, the Danish scientists found. …