It is bad news for the many afflicted by the agony of back pain. Whichever treatments they try – such as heat pads, chiropractic treatments or ergonomic chairs – only one in five can expect to recover.
A study has found that only 20 per cent of sufferers see their symptoms go away.
Researchers who followed almost 13,000 people over 16 years found the majority of sufferers had persistent or recurring back pain which they could not defeat.
The study, by the Krembil Research Institute in Canada, concludes that other experts may have got it wrong in suggesting back pain will ‘resolve in the vast majority of cases’.
Almost one in five people in their study suffered ongoing, persistent pain, with a third suffering occasional pain.
Lower back pain affects four in five people at some point in their lives and is the largest single cause of disability in Britain, causing one in eight sick days.
Dr Mayilee Canizares, who led the study, said: ‘The bad news was that one in five experienced persistent back pain, with an additional group – almost one in three – who developed back pain over time.
These two groups were associated with greater pain limiting activity, disability, and depression, as well as increased medication use.’
People with physically demanding jobs were more likely to suffer back pain, but also more likely to recover from it.
The study warns back pain can have a lasting effect, even after people have apparently got better.
Dr Canizares said: ‘The good news is that one in five recovered – however, they continued to use [painkillers] and antidepressants, suggesting that people recovering from back pain need ongoing monitoring.’