Friday, 3 February 2017

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Found Ineffective for Neck and Back Pain

Just because it's popular, doesn't mean it's a good idea. A new Australian study has found that common anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, are no better than a placebo for neck and lower back pain.

Points controlling kidneys, Wellcome Images
For this study, the results of 35 clinical trials, totalling six thousand patients, were analysed to see if non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) had any real effect. Researchers then found the success rate was so low that six patients had to be treated for one to benefit. "Compared with placebo, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) do not provide a clinically important effect on spinal pain," Associate Professor Manuela Ferreira said. As back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and affects 80% of Australians at some point in their lives, this study has far-reaching effects. And to make things worse for those who prefer pharmaceutical drugs, previous research showed that paracetamol and opioids are also no better than placebo for treating spinal pain.

NSAIDs also come with sometimes nasty side effects. The study's safety analysis revealed that the drugs increased the risk of gastrointestinal side effects by 2.5 times compared to placebo. These included stomach ulcers and bleeding. With no significant benefit, plus these side effects, safe and effective alternatives must become common practice.

One such alternative is acupuncture. Multiple studies have found that it can provide at least short-term relief from chronic back pain, with correct acupuncture outperforming "sham" treatment and sometimes even the sham treatment performing better than standard treatment. The guidelines from the American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians both state that acupuncture should be considered as an alternative treatment for patients with chronic lower back pain. It is theorised that acupuncture works by modulating neurotransmitter and neurohormone production; modulating immune cells and/or by modulating nerve signal conduction. Even the World Health Organisation recognises that acupuncture is proven to be effective in a range of conditions, including neck and lower back pain. You don't have to suffer from pain and the side effects of ineffective drugs, there are alternatives out there.

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