Chronic back pain is a condition that nobody would wish on even their worst enemy. Doctors and scientists have struggled to narrow down the root cause of many cases, prescribing dangerous surgery or pain killers that offer only fleeting relief.

Now two new studies out of Denmark and the UK are turning common conceptions about the causes of back pain on their heads.

Back pain specialists have known that bacterial infections could cause back pain, but the findings indicate that as much as 20 to 40 percent of all back pain could be cured with a course of antibiotics.

The first research paper analyzed the presence of bacteria in the slipped discs of patients who had suffered from intense pain and inflammation and thus undergone surgery. The reseachers found that close to half of all samples tested positive for infection and, of all those with bacterial infections, 80 percent carried a specific bacterial species called Propionibacterium acnes.

As the name suggests, this type of bacteria is known to cause acne and appear in mouths. The bugs can then enter the bloodstream through rigorous brushing or flossing, but have not been proven previously to cause harm inside of the body. A slipped disc and other spinal issues that cause inflammation make the body produce more blood vessels in an attempt to fix the problem. This, the researchers said, allows the bacteria to gain access to the vertebrae and cause more inflammation and damage.

The second paper went a leap further by actually prescribing a 100-day regimen of antibiotics to chronic back pain sufferers. Using a randomized trial, the researchers found that after one year, up to 80 percent of the patients who had been in pain for more than six months had reduced pain. The treatment with antibiotics is obviously a more favorable treatment to invasive surgery, but also carries the risk of antibiotic resistance if they are overused.

With millions of people across the world suffering from chronic back pain and the simplicity of antibiotic treatment, healthcare systems may save billions in the long run and patients may be spared from ineffectual surgeries.