Many patients suffering from back pain take prescription opioids even though there is little evidence that these medications offer relief. The survey included over 2,000 patients suffering from lower back pain.
Of the nearly half of the participants taking opioids for pain, only 13 percent stated that they experienced any sort of relief. Forty-four percent said that the opioids offered some relief, 31 percent said the drugs were moderately successful, and 12 percent said they were unsuccessful.
Reported side effects from opioid use were constipation, sleepiness, thinking and memory problems, and drug dependence.
Survey author Dr. Asokumar Buvanendran explained, “Patients are increasingly aware that opioids are problematic, but don’t know there are alternative treatment options.”
Stigma was another uncovered issue associated with opioid use. Many users felt more stigmatized for taking opioids than for taking antidepressants.
Dr. Buvanendran added, “While some patients may benefit from opioids for severe pain for a few days after an injury, physicians need to wean their patients off them and use multimodal therapies instead.”
Alternative therapies for back pain include physical therapy, bracing, nerve blocks, nerve ablation techniques, implantable devices, anti-inflammatory medications, biofeedback, and massage.
There is a growing number of overdosing associated with opioid medications, so it’s important to limit the use of this type of medication, especially in conditions that can be treated with other therapies offering greater relief.