Study Analyzes Impact of Antibiotics on Chronic Low Back Pain

If you have been suffering from low back pain for an extended period of time, chances are good that you’ve tried just about every remedy you’ve been able to find to address your discomfort. Yoga. Stretching. Over-the-counter medications. Acupuncture.

But have you ever considered asking your physician for a prescription for antibiotics?

The authors of a study that was just published in the British Medical Journal recently set out to determine whether sufferers of chronic low back pain realize any clinical benefit from being treated with amoxicillin following a previous randomized trial that reported a substantial effect following three months of antibiotic treatment.

The original study’s conclusions had been the subject of robust questioning, in part because there was absolutely no improvement in its control group, no evaluation of the effectiveness of blinding, and a high proportion of participants who had undergone disc surgery and therefore might have been at risk for bacterial contamination.

The theory behind that original study was that low back pain sufferers might be suffering from a low grade bacterial infection of their discs caused by cutibacterium acnes. If this were the case then the use of amoxicillin could prove effective in eliminating their discomfort. However, when study author Lars Christian Haugli Bråten of Oslo University Hospital in Oslo, Norway conducted the same test under stricter controls, they found no improvement.

Bråten and his colleagues selected participants who had been suffering with chronic low back pain as well as changes at the level of a previous lumbar disc herniation. The patients were between the ages of 18 and 65, and had suffered with low back pain for at least six months. Herniation of their lumbar disc was evident through MRI diagnosis. None of the patients had undergone surgery for disc herniation in the previous year, nor had they been treated with any antibiotic in the previous month.

Half of the patients were provided with oral amoxicillin three times daily for three months and the other half were given placebo, with none of the care providers involved in the medication’s administration being aware of who was in the control group and who was being medicated.

The study looked at patient outcomes one year after follow up, and found that of the 118 patients involved in the test, there was no statistically significant difference between the amoxicillin group and the group that received placebo, though those who received the antibiotic had a greater percentage of patients experiencing a drug-related adverse event.

The researchers concluded that the original study’s findings could not be replicated, and that there was no clinical benefit to be realized by administering an antibiotic to patients suffering from chronic low back pain.

There is no reason to live with low back pain. Our lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey has a number of effective treatment options available, ranging from conservative solutions to minimally invasive surgery. To learn which is right for you contact our office today to set up a time for an appointment.

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