The side effects may outweigh the pain relief provided by common medications used to treat back pain, according to researchers. The review was conducted by The George Institute for Global Health and found that just one in every six patients treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs experiences any significant pain relief.
Drugs like ibuprofen and paracetamol have been found to be mostly ineffective in treating back pain, and taking them can increase the risk of developing gastrointestinal problems like ulcers and bleeding.
The lead author of the study, Professor Manuela Ferreria, commented on the need for more effective treatments, stating “Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is commonly managed by prescribing medicines such as anti-inflammatories. But our results show anti-inflammatory drugs actually only provide very limited short term pain relief. They do reduce the level of pain, bit only very slightly, and arguably not of any clinical significance.” The team examined 35 trials of over 6,000 people and discovered that along with minimal pain relief, patients who took anti-inflammatories were also 2.5 times more likely to develop gastrointestinal problems like stomach ulcers and bleeding, highlighting the need for better treatment options.
Research fellow Gustav Machado explained “Millions of Australians are taking drugs that not only don’t work very well, they’re causing harm. We need treatments that will actually provide substantial relief of these people’s symptoms.”
This review underlines the need for safer, more effective treatment options for back pain, as it is such a widespread and commonly occurring affliction. Researchers suggest that the best treatment lies in better education and exercise programs focused on preventing the onset of back pain so that the use of any medications can be avoided.