The best treatment for a bad back is to ignore it, a wide-ranging review of the evidence has concluded. Staying in bed can make it worse.

The best treatment for a bad back is to ignore it, a wide-ranging review of the evidence has concluded. Staying in bed can make it worse.

Back pain causes widespread suffering and disability, affecting four out of ten adults each year, imposes an immense burden on the NHS and is a drain on the economy through days taken off work. But most of the £1.6bn spent annually on treating it is wasted, according to a study.

There is little or no evidence that the myriad therapies offered for back pain bring any benefit. Acupuncture, injections, biofeedback, spinal manipulation (including osteopathy and chiropractic), lumbar supports and traction were all equally ineffective for acute low back pain lasting less than six weeks.

The best remedy was to stay active and continue ordinary daily life, taking a couple of ibuprofen or paracetamol when needed for the pain. Sufferers who followed that strategy recovered faster, were less likely to develop chronic pain and returned to work sooner.

Tranquillisers such as Valium, which act as muscle relaxants, were also effective at reducing pain. Bed rest either did nothing or made the problem worse. Exercise therapy, involving flexion or extension of the back muscles, made it worse.

The study was done the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at York University. It involved a systematic review of all the evidence on the treatment of back pain.

* Diabetes sufferers may soon be able to inhale insulin rather than having to give themselves daily injections. A US study of a new inhaler device for insulin found that it worked as well as the traditional method of injections before meals, The Lancet reported.

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