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  • Gary Aydelott

Back Pain Causing Bacteria Discovered

In 2013 a research team from the University of Southern Denmark decided to test a claim that up to 53% of herniated discs are infected with a particular type of bacteria. They devised two studies to validate this research.

In between each vertebrae of your spine there resides a small disc or shock absorber which is soft in the middle but surrounded by a tough exterior. Sometimes called a slipped disc or a ruptured disc, a herniated disc occurs when some of the softer "jelly" pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior. A herniated disc can be quite painful and is often associated with degenerative lower back pain.

The researchers assumed that bacteria entered the disc at the time it was injured and became herniated, or "slipped." The researchers wanted to find out if a bacterial infection could cause lower back pain and if so, could antibiotics, as opposed to surgery, be an effective method of treatment.

The first study consisted of taking disc tissue samples of 61 patients who had spinal surgery for lower back pain to determine if bacteria were present in the disc tissue. Of course, bacteria would have to be present in order to cause an infection. The researchers found bacteria in 46% of the slipped discs. As this is just under half of the discs tested, it was considered a substantial number.

In the second study, the research team chose 162 patients who had been living with low back pain for more than 6 months following a slipped disc. Half of the patients were given a 100-day antibiotic treatment, while the others received a placebo for the same time.

After a one-year follow-up period, those who took antibiotics were less likely to still have lower back pain and physical disability. They were also less likely to have leg pain and had not taken days off from work because of their back. Researchers estimated that almost 40% of people with long-term back pain have excess fluid in the spinal vertebrae caused by bacterial infection, which could be effectively treated with antibiotics and not surgery.

So what does all this research mean? One thing that was not included in the research was any attempt to determine whether the bacteria were present in the disc prior to the injury. If so, an infection may have inflamed the disc making it more susceptible to injury. More research is needed to determine if this was the case but it certainly can't be ruled out.

Another thing that was very interesting was the type of bacteria that was found in the damaged discs. In most cases it was bacteria that reside in human mouths and skin, which are usually harmless unless they penetrate into the blood supply.

A cut or abrasion inside the mouth, perhaps due to using a stiff bristle toothbrush, or dental work, such as a root canal could allow the bacteria to enter the blood supply. Cracks in the teeth could also allow access.

Thus this study provides a definite link from lower back pain to dental hygiene. Who would have ever suspected that problems with your teeth could cause you to have lower back pain?

Although additional research is required to determine the role of bacterial infection in lower back pain; for those considering back surgery, a dental examination may be in order. If cracks, bleeding gums or root canals are present, it may be prudent to have those repaired along with antibiotics as an alternative to surgery.

At the Life-Wave Living Center we use the Rikian Exerciser™ to stimulate the lower back muscles and help promote blood circulation in that area. Improved blood circulation will help strengthen the immune system allowing your body to naturally fight bacterial infection and remove toxins from your body. Your body is made to heal itself, but in order to do so, you must move those muscles.

So, get a move on! Come down to the Life-Wave Living Center for a safe and healthy workout.

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