Common painkillers ‘ineffective’ against back pain
Prescribed painkillers, even in high doses, are relatively ineffective against back pain, according to an Australian study.
Opioids like tramadol, oxycodone and morphine are often prescribed for those suffering.
But the new study from the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney found they only provide small benefits for lower back pain patients.
Even codeine was thought to have little impact, although the research team did not have enough data to make a firm conclusion.
Many of these painkilling drugs are highly addictive with varying side effects. The research team are concerned they might be doing more harm than good.
In the study, among those who had suffered with back pain for less than a year, opiates did help but the benefit was judged to ‘minimal’. Larger doses, of above 240mg a day, did increase pain relief.
More powerful medications like oxycodone and buprenorphine patches are effective in the short to intermediate term.
But many of the drugs taken include side effects like dizziness that could cause a further injury or fall.
Of the 7,295 patients studied, half suffered such side effects or stopped taking the drugs altogether.
Exercise still best treatment
Lead author Andrew McLachlan says the best long-term solution for back pain remains exercise.
Patients should be urged to stay active and be given reassurance from the doctor that eventually pain will go away, he adds.
Providing medicine instead of exercise could allow the pain to become chronic, he adds.
The study was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.