Current clinical practice guidelines state that 90% of acute lower back pain patients will recover within four to six weeks, with or without treatment. However, new research published in The British Medical Journal has found that recovery from low back pain is much slower than previously thought. Australian researchers from The George Insitute studied patients with acute low back pain for a year. The results from the study found that even with treatment, after two months only half of the patients had recovered from the original episode of pain. After about one year, 40% were still reporting that their back was still causing them pain.
Professor Chris Maher claims, "These results challenge the accepted view that recovery is rapid following an episode of acute back low back pain. For many people back pain becomes a long term problem that severely impacts their life."
Researchers found that the strongest predictor of delayed recovery was if the episode of low back pain was compensable. Patients receiving compensation had half the normal chance of recovery. In 2005, the additional health care expenditure because of spinal problems was estimated to be $86 billion.