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bibliography * The PainScience Bibliography contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers and others sources, like a specialized blog. This page is about a single scientific paper in the bibliography, Giannetti 2010.

Comfrey ointment is a potent, effective back pain treatment

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Tags: back pain, good news, medications, counter-intuitive, pain problems, spine, self-treatment, treatment

PainSci summary of Giannetti 2010?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★★☆?4-star ratings are for bigger/better studies and reviews published in more prestigious journals, with only quibbles. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

Here’s a well-I’ll-be-darned study: researchers not only found that ointment made from the root of the comfrey plant is an effective treatment for low back pain, but a “potent” one. Assuming the experimental results are sound, this one’s a rare, clear win for a traditional herbal remedy. “The results of this clinical trial were clear-cut and consistent,” the authors report. “Comfrey root extract showed a remarkably potent and clinically relevant effect in reducing acute back pain.”

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstractAbstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

OBJECTIVE: The objective was to show the superiority of comfrey root extract ointment to placebo ointment in patients with acute upper or lower back pain.

DESIGN: The study was conducted as a double-blind, multicentre, randomised clinical trial with parallel group design over a period of 5 days (SD 1). The patients (n = 120, mean age 36.9 years) were treated with verum or placebo ointment three times a day, 4 g ointment per application. The trial included four visits.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary efficacy variable was the area under the curve (AUC) of the visual analogue scale (VAS) on active standardised movement values at visits 1 to 4. The secondary efficacy variables were back pain at rest using assessment by the patient on VAS, pressure algometry (pain-time curve; AUC over 5 days), global assessment of efficacy by the patient and the investigator, consumption of analgesic medication and functional impairment measured using the Oswestry disability index.

RESULTS: There was a significant treatment difference between comfrey extract and placebo regarding the primary variable. In the course of the trial the pain intensity on active standardised movement decreased on average (median) approximately 95.2% in the verum group and 37.8% in the placebo group.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this clinical trial were clear-cut and consistent across all primary and secondary efficacy variables. Comfrey root extract showed a remarkably potent and clinically relevant effect in reducing acute back pain. For the first time a fast-acting effect of the ointment (1 h) was also witnessed.

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This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights: