Get me some pills! But not those…

Last week the Low Back Pain medical news was full of the story about muscle relaxants and opioid medications being of no additional value to sufferers than just taking anti-inflammatories alone.

As is often the case, the study was badly reported by a lot of the media.  Here’s a wee summary:

Who was studied?

323 LBP sufferers turning up at the “Emergency Department” in the Bronx during 2012.  These were selected as meeting the study criteria out of a total number of 2588 cases of LBP.  They had had LBP of less than 2 weeks duration, with no leg pain and no history of physical trauma related to the onset of their pain.

What kind of study was it?

The “Gold Standard” randomized, double-blinded (neither patients nor clincians knew what treatment was being given to each participant), placebo controlled study (results compared against a “sugar pill”).

What outcomes were studied?

The participants were followed up 1 week and 3 months later, and their level of pain and disability was assessed using the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire.

What were the actual results?

Adding oxycodone (an opioid) or cyclobenzaprine (a muscle relaxant) was no more effective than a placebo when used in combination with naproxen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory).

What else?

At the 3 month point, a quarter of all participants still had moderate or severe pain and had continued using some medication.

My conclusion

Medication doesn’t fix LBP, though it may have a useful role in some people in helping to reduce pain in the short term in order to help you be more active.  Opioids and muscle relaxants have addictive qualities that are best avoided.

If you’re still taking medication weeks after the onset of LBP, give us a ring to see how we can help you reduce them.




About the Author:

Clinic Director and Osteopath. Gavin graduated as a Gold Medallist in 1991 and is now a Vice Patron of the British School of Osteopathy. Co-author of “The Back Book” with Gavin Hastings OBE in 1996, and author of "active X backs - and effective solution for lower back pain"; he has an MSc in The Clinical Management of Pain from the University of Edinburgh. He's passionate about helping to move people as far from illness and pain as possible, and in January 2015 set himself the target of helping a million people get a better back.

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