Back and neck pain

Nachemson A, Carlsson C-A, Englund L, Goossens M et al
Record ID 32001000014
Authors' objectives:

This report examines the epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of back and neck pain. Also covered are the economic, social, and psychosocial aspects of back pain.

Authors' results and conclusions: The scientific basis for more than 30 different treatments was systematically reviewed. For the majority of these there are either no evidence or limited evidence in favour of treatment. For some modalities there is strong or moderate evidence against their effectiveness, eg, by traction, aerobics, stretching, and bed rest. For a minority of treatments there is strong evidence of effectiveness, eg, for anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant drugs, manual treatment, manipulation, exercise, multidisciplinary treatment, spa treatment, and continuation of normal activities. For diagnosis: Systematic anamnesis and physical examination are good foundations for correct diagnosis. Radiographic studies are of limited value. For acute low back pain: Normal activities result in faster recovery and fewer chronic functional disorders, anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant drugs offer effective pain relief, while bed-rest is not effective. For chronic back pain: Manual treatment/manipulation, back training, and multidisciplinary treatment effectively relieve pain. Intensive treatment at a health resort reduces pain in the short term for elderly patients (>60 years of age) with chronic low back problems. Surgery: For herniated discs, surgery is effective. For surgical fusion, there is no evidence. For neck pain, the evidence is sparse. The only firm evidence is that acupuncture is not effective. Psychological and social factors may have a strong influence on back and neck pain.
Authors' recomendations: Back and neck pain is common. Healing is promoted by staying active, returning to work, and exercising at an appropriate intensity. A thorough anamnesis and physical examination is important for relieving anxiety about the consequences of pain and sufficient for identifying those who should be referred to a specialist. For most patients with back pain, the interventions that can be offered in primary care are the only ones needed. Back pain and its consequences are not isolated physical problems but are associated with other conditions such as social, psychological, and workplace-related factors. Knowledge on how to prevent back pain has been applied and assessed to a surprisingly minor degree. There is little scientific evidence on the effectiveness of most treatments.
Authors' methods: Review
Project Status: Completed
URL for project:
Year Published: 2000
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: Sweden
MeSH Terms
  • Back Pain
  • Neck Pain
Organisation Name: Swedish Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Assessment of Social Services
Contact Address: P.O. Box 3657, SE-103 59 Stockholm, Sweden. Tel: +46 8 4123200, Fax: +46 8 4113260
Contact Name:
Contact Email:
Copyright: The Swedish Council on Technology Assessment in Health Care (SBU)
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.