Some common painkillers may offer little actual benefit for back pain says new study

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back pain, NSAIDs, painkillers, arthritis back pain, arthritis information, arthritis digest, arthritis magazineCommonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen may have little benefit in terms of reducing back pain, and potentially put people at risk of side effects, says research in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Experts looked at data from 35 trials involving over 6,000 people. They found that only one in six people with back pain treated with NSAIDs achieve any significant reduction in pain. And people taking anti-inflammatory medicines were 2.5 times more likely to experience gastrointestinal problems such as stomach ulcers and bleeding.

Implications

Back pain affects almost one in 10 people according to the Global Burden of Disease Study, so the findings highlight the need for new treatments that are more effective in providing relief.

Work should also be done to prevent back pain from developing in the first place. Exercise programmes, for example, can reduce a person’s risk of developing the condition.

“Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is commonly managed by prescribing medicines such as anti-inflammatories,” explains Dr Manuela Ferreira, who led the work. “But our results show anti-inflammatory drugs actually only provide very limited short-term pain relief. They do reduce the level of pain, but only very slightly, and arguably not of any clinical significance.”

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