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Undiagnosed back pain 'affects more than a quarter of Britons'

20:00 EDT 1 Jun 2015 | Arthritis Research UK

A new survey has shed light on the widespread problems caused by undiagnosed back pain among people in the UK.

Conducted by Nuffield Health and Atomik Research, the poll questioned 3,322 people and found that 1,203 of them (36 per cent) experience lower back pain that impacts their daily lives.

Of these, 27 per cent have never been diagnosed and therefore do not understand the source of their pain or how it could be treated. Extrapolated nationwide, this is equivalent to around six million people in Britain.

The report also indicated that half of those with pain have been told that a referral to a spinal specialist will do no good, as there is no treatment for lower back pain, while 35 per cent have not been given access to any form of diagnostic scan.

As such, 27 per cent say the lack of diagnosis or knowledge is causing depression, with 14 per cent on long-term sickness benefit or simply unable to work.

The Nuffield Health study raised concerns that sedentary lifestyles are contributing to the proliferation of this trend, as well as poor advice given by doctors, owing to the confusing central guidance medical professionals are often reliant upon.

This results in many people becoming dependent on medication rather than encouraged to engage in therapeutic exercise, while the potential role physiotherapists can play in aiding recovery often gets overlooked.

Christopher Dare, a consultant spinal surgeon at Nuffield Health Wessex Hospital, said: "Wherever possible people need to keep moving and exercising, while early physiotherapy and scanning can both help prevent people spending years in pain, with cupboards full of drugs and an increasingly diminishing chance of recovery."

A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK said: "Low back pain is one of the most common and costly health problems in the UK, and research is starting to reveal the important role that psychological factors play in managing it. It's also very important that people with low back pain stay active, to prevent them spiralling into anxiety and depression."

The charity recently developed an effective screening tool called STaRT Back, which triages people with low back pain into different treatment groups according to their levels of need. This means that people at high risk of their back pain becoming chronic are offered more extensive treatment, including physiotherapy given by professionals trained to address psychological problems often associated with chronic low back pain.

The STaRT Back tool has been widely implemented around the UK and has resulted in  significantly reduced level of pain and distress in people with low back pain, helped them take less time off work, cost less than the best current care and led to more patient satisfaction.

Original Article: Undiagnosed back pain 'affects more than a quarter of Britons'

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