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While nearly everyone experiences back pain at least once during their lives, scientists are still trying to work out why some experience it more chronically than others.

An international team of researchers has undertaken a significant systematic review and meta-analysis of back pain, aiming to shed light on the clinical course of acute (<6 weeks), subacute (6 to less than 12 months) and persistent (12 to less than 52 weeks) low back pain.

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The results showed that people with new back pain experienced decreased pain and fewer issues with mobility in the first six weeks, but their recovery slowed after that period. It also showed that people with persistent low back pain (more than 12 weeks) continued to have back pain and even disability.

The findings clarified that back pain can continue and become chronic, even after the injury has healed. Therefore, if someone is experiencing subacute (6-12 months) back pain, it is crucial to seek professional help to reduce the likelihood of it turning into chronic pain.

“The good news is that most episodes of back pain recover, and this is the case even if you have already had back pain for a couple of months”, says University of South Australia Professor Lorimer Moseley.

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“The bad news is that once you have had back pain for more than a few months, the chance of recovery is much lower. This reminds us that although nearly everyone experiences back pain, some people do better than others, but we don’t completely understand why”.

Professor Moseley also noted that there were new treatments based on training the brain and body.

“(These treatments) focus on first understanding that chronic back pain is not a simple problem, which is why it does not have a simple solution, and then on slowly reducing pain system sensitivity while increasing your function and participation in meaningful activities”, he says.

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Rahima Saikal

Rahima Saikal is a freelance journalist and content creator and has been working in the media industry for 10+ years all around the world.

Rahima enjoys writing about healthcare, wellness, travel and social change movements, particularly animal rights.

Having written numerous articles for both print and online publications, Rahima is well versed in what makes a good story.

Rahima lives between Bali and Australia with her family and 3 Bali dogs.