Many opioids provide limited relief from back pain

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Many opioids provide limited relief from back pain

Millions of people with back pain take powerful and potentially addictive opioid painkillers to alleviate the pain instantly. However,  in a new survey, many opioid drugs provide limited relief. According to research presented by American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), patients with back pain were very much worried about the addiction of opioids as well as complain about their side effects.

Although the patients are now aware that opioids are problematic, they do not know the alternative treatment options available to treat the back pain.  While some patients may benefit from opioids for severe pain for a few days after an injury, physicians need to avoid using opioids and use multi-modal therapies instead.

A survey was conducted among 2030 patients taking opioids for the back pain.  About 13% of patients reported relieving their back pain with the use of opioids suggesting this approach as “very successful." The most common answer given by 44% of patients was “somewhat successful," and 31% said “moderately successful,"  while 12 % reported that the opioids were “not successful."

Opioid drugs are addictive, and 75% of the patients reported side effects like constipation (65%), sleepiness (37%), cognitive problems (32%) and opioid dependence (29%). Stigma was another concern for these patients, and around 41% of the patients complained to judged by using opioids. While only 19% of the 68% patients who took antidepressant drugs felt a stigma.

Narcotic painkillers carried the serious risk of addiction and a major pharmaceutical company agreed on not promoting opioids for "off-label" use such as long-term back pain. Moreover,  researchers did not find strong evidence to prove the effectiveness of opioids in back pain lasting for >12 weeks.

It was suggested that patients with chronic low back pain (more than 3 months) should consult a pain medicine specialist and multi-modal approach should be employed such as physical therapy, interventional procedures, e.g. nerve blocks, bracing, nerve ablation techniques or implantable devices to reduce pain, anti-inflammatory medications and alternative therapies such as massage and biofeedback therapies for benefits.


American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)

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Survey indicates that many back pain patients get limited relief from opioids and worry about taking them


 Asokumar Buvanendran

Therapeutic, Back Pain, Spine, Opioids, Narcotics, Safety, Constipation, Sleepiness, Cognitive Issues, Opioid Dependence
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