Current studies: Back pain medication does more harm than it can help

Most back pain medications are ineffective
Many people around the world suffer from back pain. Affected people often use a variety of medications to treat the pain. Australian researchers have now found that medications to treat back pain cause harm to many people and do not improve pain.

The researchers at The George Institute for Global Health in Australia found that many back pain medications are harmful rather than helpful. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases".

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have little use
An Australian review of 35 studies with more than 6,000 patients has found that so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are of little use in treating back pain. But they cause a number of side effects.

NSAID often leads to stomach ulcers and bleeding
Of all patients treated with NSAID, only one sixth reported a significant reduction in pain, the researchers say. However, such patients were approximately 2.5 times more likely to have gastrointestinal problems. These include, for example, stomach ulcers and bleeding.

Efficacy of pain relievers for back pain
Most popular pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen were mostly useless for the treatment of back pain. In addition, the medication mostly produced undesirable side effects. Only one in six patients treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs experienced a significant reduction in pain. A previous study has already shown that acetaminophen is ineffective in back pain and that opioids are usually only slightly more effective than placebos, the authors add.

New therapies need to be developed
There is an urgent need to develop new therapies for the treatment of back pain, because the disease affects about 80 percent of all people at some point in their lives, the researchers emphasize.

Anti-inflammatory drugs reduce pain only slightly
Author Manuela Ferreira explains about the current study: Back pain is the leading cause of disabilities and restrictions worldwide. Often the problem is treated by prescribing anti-inflammatory drugs. But our results show that anti-inflammatory drugs actually only achieve very limited short-term pain relief, the expert adds. Although they reduce the level of pain, they do so only very slightly and without clinical significance.

Current medications are not suitable for pain relief for back pain
When the factor of common side effects is considered, it quickly becomes apparent that these drugs are not the answer to pain relief for back pain, the authors explain. Most clinical guidelines would currently provide NSAIDs as the second type of pain reliever after paracetamol administration.

Official guidelines of the NHS
Back pain usually improves within a few weeks or months. Most people don't even need a doctor or other medical therapist to treat their pain there, the researchers say. Official guidelines from the National Health Service (NHS) suggest that people with back pain should try to stay as active as possible. The experts also recommend anti-inflammatory painkillers and the use of hot and cold compresses.

Exercise programs reduce the risk of developing back pain
Millions of people take medication that doesn't work very well and can even cause damage, explains author Gustavo Machado. "We need treatments that actually relieve symptoms significantly in these people," Machado said. It is even better to focus more on avoiding back pain. So-called education and training programs could significantly reduce the risk of developing back pain, the experts add. (as)

Author and source information

Video: Back Pain Management: Treatment of Chronic Back Pain. UCLA Health (October 2021).