Ozone injection 'can ease agony of back pain'Researchers inject ozone into damaged discs37 per cent still pain-free six months later
Previous studies have also highlighted the pain-zapping qualities of ozone
A single injection of a gas linked with air pollution could ease back pain for millions of people, new research shows.
Around two-thirds of patients who had ozone injected said it relieved the pain caused by disc problems.
The research, involving 327 volunteers with long-term back problems that had failed to get better with other treatments, is the latest in a long line of studies highlighting the pain-zapping qualities of the gas.
Ozone is a highly reactive gas which can be beneficial or harmful to human health, depending where it is in the atmosphere.
The 'ozone layer', which extends from six to thirty miles above the Earth's surface, protects us from the Sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation. But at ground-level, it can be a dangerous air pollutant that damages the airways and inflames the lining of the lungs.
In recent years, however, pain researchers have been investigating its potential as a remedy for herniated discs.
This is where discs in the spine which normally act as shock absorbers for the body become damaged and inflamed, pressing against nearby nerves and causing pain and numbness.
Treatments usually involve physiotherapy and painkillers but many people end up needing surgery. But the ozone therapy could help many avoid going under the knife.
Scientists at Frankfurt University in Germany treated patients with bulging discs who had not got better on other treatments and were heading for major surgery.
After a single injection of the gas, 37 per cent reported they were still pain-free six months after the jab.
Another third reported less frequent
episodes of back pain, usually once a day rather than several times a
day previously. Of the remainder, 22 per cent reported no improvement
and seven per cent said they felt worse.
The 'ozone layer', which extends from above the Earth's surface, protects us from harmful UV radiation, but at ground-level, it can be a dangerous air pollutant
The gas is first mixed with steroid medicine, which helps to dampen down inflammation, and injected directly into the damaged disc under a local anaesthetic.
Scans showed the discs shrunk by between two per cent and 15 per cent afterwards, according to results presented at the recent annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.
Some research suggests ozone helps by reducing levels of prostaglandins – compounds in the body that trigger inflammation and pain. This helps shrink the disc, easing pressure on nerves.
Research leader Dr Thomas Lehnert said: 'If you reduce the volume, it won't be pushing against the nerve and causing pain.'