Back Pain Will Keep Coming Back If Not Treated Early

May 01, 1998

(Outcome of low back pain in general practice: a prospective study)

Three quarters of people who go to see their doctor with a new episode of lower back pain are still suffering symptoms a year later, find Dr Gary Macfarlane et al in their study in south Manchester, which is published in this week's BMJ. Low back pain is a common reason for people to visit their GP and during any 12 months period seven per cent of the adult population will consult with this problem.

Previously it has been thought that 90 per cent of back pain sufferers are relieved of their discomfort within six weeks of seeing their GP. Macfarlane and colleagues discovered that in fact most people with lower back problems stop consulting their doctor after three months but continue to experience pain and related disability one year later. The authors propose that low back pain should be viewed as a chronic condition and effective early treatment could help to reduce the burden of patients' symptoms and minimise their social, economic and medical impact.


Dr Alan Silman, ARC Epidemiology Research Unit, School of Epidemiology and Health Services, University of Manchester, Stopford Building, Manchester


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