Antibiotics & Lower Back Pain?

Antibiotics & Lower Back Pain.

Will antibiotics cure back pain?

We thought we would take a moment to talk about a subject that has been the in the news recently, from newspapers to patients suffering with back pain.

It stems from an article in the peer-reviewed journal, European Spine, which reported the findings of a study conducted in Denmark. Within days by-lines like “Half a million sufferers of back pain ‘could be cured with antibiotics'” captured the hopes of many.

Antibiotics & Lower Back Pain.

Antibiotics & Lower Back Pain.

What’s behind the hype?

They are based on research into chronic lower back pain that suggested that some cases may actually be caused by a bacterial infection. Research scientists found evidence that antibiotic therapy used in a specific type of chronic lower back pain was more effective than placebo pills at reducing back pain.

Even if its application is limited the potential is encouraging but caution must be exercised. It has to be reinforced that this study focused on individuals with a very specific lower back pain, a subgroup of sufferers, who had signs of bone swelling (bone oedema) detected by a MRI scan.

Cautious Optimism

The worry is that sensationalist headlines could encourage indiscriminate demand of antibiotics in the hope of curing all back pain. However disappointing the outcome may be for an individual sufferer the overwhelming concern is for society as a whole as it could add to growing problem of bacteria resistant antibiotics.

The research team are not quite writing their Nobel acceptance speeches, they realise that it is not a universal cure for back pain. They state that antibiotics have the potential to help ‘relieve the symptoms’ of a small but significant group of back pain sufferers but they would also remind people that there is currently no conclusive evidence that they can correct the underlying causes of chronic back pain.

We look forward to following the research developments. In the meantime we are here at Cheadle Osteopathy to look after you.


Albert HB, Sorensen JS, Christensen BS, Manniche C. Antibiotics treatment in patients with chronic low back pain and vertebral bone edema (Modic type 1 changes): a double-blind randomized clinical controlled trial of efficacy. European Spine Journal 2013:1-11