Low Back Pain Improves Soon After Treatment, but Still Lingers

Pain, disability improve early on, but persist for those with acute or persistent low back pain

TUESDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with acute or persistent low back pain, pain and disability improve in the first six weeks of treatment, but low-to-moderate pain and disability tend to persist at one year, according to a review published online May 14 in CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.

Luciola da C. Menezes Costa, Ph.D., of the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of inception cohort studies to systematically review the literature on the clinical course of acute and persistent low back pain and disability. A total of 33 cohorts were identified, involving 11,166 participants.

The researchers found that, for those with acute pain, the variance-weighted mean pain scores were 52, 23, 12, and 6, at baseline, six, 26, and 52 weeks, respectively, after the onset of pain. For those with persistent pain, the variance-weighted mean pain scores were 51, 33, 26, and 23 at baseline, six, 26, and 52 weeks, respectively. The time course of disability outcomes was similar to that of the pain time course for patients with acute pain, and was slightly better than the pain course for patients with persistent pain.

"We found that patients with acute or persistent low back pain improved markedly in the first six weeks, but beyond this time improvement slowed," the authors write. "Even at one year, patients had low-to-moderate levels of pain and disability."

One of the authors disclosed financial ties to GlaxoSmithKline.

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