CTV NEWS – Opioids should not be prescribed to treat acute neck and lower back pain, new research suggests.
The Australian study, published in The Lancet on Wednesday, found patients given opioid tablets had the same level of pain after six weeks compared to those given a placebo.
Researchers looked specifically at neck and lower back pain because “it’s a very, very prevalent condition” and opioids are frequently prescribed to relieve it, said senior author Christine Lin, a professor at the institute for musculoskeletal health at the University of Sydney.
The randomized control trial recruited 347 participants who had been experiencing at least moderate pain for 12 weeks or less. About half of the participants (174) were given oxycodone-naloxone daily and 172 were given placebo pills. One participant left the trial due to illness.
The participants didn’t know whether they were receiving opioid medication or a placebo.
The trial doctors were instructed to give all patients “guideline-recommended care,” including reassuring patients that their pain would get better with time and encouraging them to stay active and avoid bed rest.
Some patients in both groups also received non-opioid medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Common examples of NSAIDs are ibuprofen, Aspirin or naproxen sodium.
After six weeks, the researchers asked participants about the severity of their pain, rating it on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest level of pain. The average pain score for those given opioids was 2.78, compared to 2.25 in the placebo group.
The Australian study is “good” and most participants were likely suffering from muscular pain, given that people with serious spinal issues were excluded, said Dr. Hance Clarke, medical director of the pain research unit at University Health Network in Toronto, who was not involved in the study.
The findings reflect the way muscular pain in the neck and lower back is increasingly treated in Canada, said Clarke, who is also president-elect of the Canadian Pain Society … READ MORE.