People suffering from lower back pain can continue to experience discomfort even after the initial injury has healed, a new study has found.
Researchers from the University of South Australia wanted to better understand the clinical course of lower back pain – a disability that affects more than 570 million people around the world.
They looked into acute back pain, which lasts for less than six weeks, subacute back pain, which lasts between six weeks and three months, and persistent back pain, which lasts from three months up to a year.
The team’s results, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, showed that whilst most people will ‘recover’ from episodes of back pain, a level of pain can persist even if the injury itself has healed.
Professor Lorimer Moseley explained: “The good news is that most episodes of back pain recover, and this is the case even if you have already had back pain for a couple of months.
“The bad news is that once you have had back pain for more than a few months, the chance of recovery is much lower.
“We also found that many people with persistent lower back pain continue to have moderate-to-high levels of pain and disability.
“These findings make it clear that back pain can persist even when the initial injury has healed.
“This reminds us that although nearly everyone experiences back pain, some people do more than others but we don’t completely understand why.”
The study also discovered that for those with acute back pain, mobility issues lessened within the first few weeks.
However, for those who reached subacute back pain, recovery significantly slowed.
“Identifying slowed recovery in people with subacute low back pain is important so that care can be escalated, and the likelihood of persistent pain reduced,” Professor Moseley said.
He also said that new treatments should focus on the fact that chronic back pain is not a simple problem, and therefore will not have a simple solution.
“Treatments need to slowly reduce pain system sensitivity while increasing your function and participation in meaningful activities.
“Chronic back pain is not a simple problem, which is why it does not have a simple solution.
“Further research into treatments is needed to help address this common and debilitating condition, and to better understand it in people younger than 18 and older than 60 years.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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