Almost everyone experiences low back pain at some time. For most, the pain goes away on its own.
But for 20 percent of patients, back pain persists for a year or more. It is the second most common cause of disability in the United States. UU., According to the National Institutes of Health.
A group of researchers from the University of Sapienza in Italy believe they have found a solution for at least one form of debilitating back pain after their tests left most patients without pain.
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Participants in the study of eighty people reported suffering from back pain for 3 months; Exercise or medication did not alleviate the symptoms. His particular diagnosis was a herniated disc, a sometimes painful condition in which the rubbery cushion between the vertebrae moves, irritating the nearby nerves.
The group underwent a minimally invasive procedure, the TC-guided pulsed radiofrequency, in which a probe was inserted and an electric current was delivered to the area for ten minutes.
"The probe offers a mild electrical energy, so there is no thermal damage," said Dr. Alessandro Napoli, lead author of the study. "After this treatment, the inflammation and pain disappear, with the relaxation of the muscles, the distance between the vertebrae returns."
Of the 80 treated patients, 81% were pain-free one year after a single 10-minute treatment session. Six patients required a second pulsed radiofrequency session. Ninety percent of patients could avoid surgical treatment.
"Altering the electric field changes the conduction of the nerve root can have a long-lasting effect, as we see in this report," said Dr. Jacqueline Bello, chief of neuroradiology at Montefiore Medical Center, New York.
But many experts say that the technology used in the Italian study needs more research and that radiofrequency should not be used alone.
"The origin of back pain is complex and for most people it resolves itself," said Dr. Alexios Carayannopoulos Medical Director of Comprehensive Spine Center and Director of Pain and Rehabilitation Medicine Division at Rhode Island Hospital . "Radiofreqeuncy technology should be used within a multidisciplinary paradigm along with physiotherapy, yoga, non-opioid medication and chiropractic medicine."
The study also did not measure the patients against a control: a group of patients who did not receive treatment at all, so it is impossible to determine if the pain relief comes from the treatment or if it resolved on its own.
"We do not know what would have happened if it had been compared to nothing or a farce," said Dr. Seth Waldman, director of pain management at the Hospital for Special Surgery. "More research is needed in a randomized control trial."
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When back pain occurs, the first instinct is typically to avoid physical activity and retreat to the couch until the pain disappears. pain. But many doctors believe that this is the worst for the disease. In fact, not only do doctors believe that people who experience back pain should remain active, but they also believe that non-surgical methods can be effective.
In a 2016 review on exercise for nonspecific LBP, the researchers found that aerobic exercise, improving flexibility of the lumbar spine and hamstrings and strengthening the center of the body significantly reduces low back pain for most the patients.
"It is important to emphasize exercise, stretching, proper posture, ergonomics, maintaining a healthy weight and balancing activities to maintain back health," said Carayannopolous.