In fact, the experts insisted that avoiding bed rest and taking paracetamol would work. For the study, researchers at the University of Sydney assigned patients to receive either an anti-inflammatory drug called diclofenac, a dummy drug, spinal manipulation or fake manipulation therapy.
They had already received simple treatment recommendation from their GP to keep active, avoid bed rest and take paracetamol for the pain. The research team found that there was no difference in recovery times after 12 weeks in patients who also received diclofenac or spinal manipulation. They found that almost all the patients had recovered by the end of the study no matter what treatment they had received.
Mark Hancock, lead author of the study, said there was no clinical benefit from the additional treatments. He added that both non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as diclofenac or ibuprofen, and spinal manipulation are in fact associated with adverse effects. "GPs can manage patients confidently without exposing them to increased risks and costs associated with NSAIDs or spinal manipulative therapy," the BBC quoted him, as saying.
According to Dr Bart Koes, from the Department of General Practice at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, the results were probably applicable to other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. "It is very likely that for many patients with acute low back pain currently treated with NSAIDs and/or spinal manipulation this would not have been needed if adequate first-line treatment with paracetamol and advice and reassurance was given," he said.
Dr Stuart Derbyshire, senior lecturer in the School of Psychology and expert in pain at the University of Birmingham, also agreed with the results of the study. "For most people, providing simple care and advice should guide the patient through their acute phase of pain and allow them to return to normal life when that acute phase is over," he said.
Nia Taylor, chief executive of BackCare said the key message for people was to keep moving.