Patients with acute low-back pain rarely take sick leave but frequently develop chronic symptoms, a new study from the journal Spine suggests.
In the study, researchers worked with 605 acute low-back pain patients with and without sciatica who were being treated in a primary-care setting. The patients were evaluated for initial pain and disability levels. On a scale of 1 to 10, patients reported an average pain level of 5.6. Their average disability score was 15.8 on the Roland-Morris scale of 0 to 24. Researchers were able to follow-up with 521 patients after six months and again with 443 patients after two years.
At six months, 13% of patients had developed chronic pain symptoms and 19% of patients had persistent pain after two years. Despite ongoing symptoms, only 8% of patients said they took sick leave as a result of pain. Even patients whose symptoms didn’t persist were likely to experience recurring episodes of pain since half of patients reported pain recurrences.
This study reinforces a point made in another recent study: current guidelines on acute low-back pain are in need of revision. The idea that acute low-back pain is temporary and non-recurring may no longer fit the reality experienced by many low-back pain patients. Researchers wrote that “broad initiatives to develop new means for the primary and secondary prevention of recurrent and chronic LBP are urgently needed.”
A chiropractor can assist you in treating a current episode of acute low-back pain while helping you minimize your risk of developing chronic symptoms.
Mehling WE, Gopisetty V, Bartmess E et al. The Prognosis of Acute Low Back Pain in Primary Care in the United States: A 2-Year Prospective Cohort Study. Spine 2012; 37(8): 678–684.