80% of Americans will suffer back pain during their lifetime, resulting in over $50 billion dollars in healthcare costs and loss of productivity.

New research has found that antibiotics can cure back pain 80% of the time for a subgroup of back pain sufferers. Specifically, if you have back pain for more than 6 months and have experienced a herniated disc, then you should get an MRI to see if you have small breaks in bone in the vetebrae adjacent to the herniated disc (known as modic Type 1 changes). Turns out that 35% of people with lower back pain have modic Type 1 changes.  In a randomized controlled trial, they found that giving an antibiotic (Augmentin) for 100 days reduced pain and improved function. Specifically, all patients reported pain initially. After 1 year follow-up “67.5% of the antibiotic group reported this pain, compared with 94.0% of the placebo group (P = .0001 for difference). The percentage of those with constant pain was reduced from 73.5% to 19.5% in the antibiotic group and from 73.1% to 67.2% in the placebo group (P = .0001 for difference).”

Bottom line: If you have chronic lower back pain for more than 6 months, and have a history of a herniated disc, you should get an MRI to see if you have modic Type 1 changes. If you do have these changes, you should speak with your doctor about taking Augmentin three times daily for 100 days.