Doctors who insist on bed rest for patients with acute back pain are probably making the situation worse. Instead, they should be sending the sufferer to a physiotherapist or chiropractor, the UK Clinical Standards Advisory Group has concluded.
In a damning report of back pain treatment in Britain, the group says that current practices are adding to chronic problems and disabilities.
Bed rest can cause long term problems, they point out, and up to 95 per cent of sufferers could be treated by a chiropractor if the pain did not recede within three days. Bed rest should be recommended only in the most extreme of cases, and then only for a few days.
Back pain accounts for 52 million lost work days every year in Britain. In 1993, 1.6 million British people went to hospital for treatment of their backs.
l Acute, low back pain is best treated by mild exercise, such as walking and swimming, the US Federal Agency for Health Care has said. It found no scientific evidence to support spinal traction and acupuncture. Like its British counterparts, it rejected bed rest, oral steroids and electrical stimulation.
They concurred that spinal manipulation, as given by chiropractors and osteopaths, for example, could relieve pain, especially if given within the first month.