Non steroidal painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen are effective for reducing low-back pain in the short-term, says a Cochrane Systematic Review.
Low back pain is a major health problem in western industrialised countries and Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin are the most frequently prescribed medication.
In order to evaluate the efficacy of these drugs, Cochrane Researchers reviewed data from 65 trials that involved a total of 11,237 people.
They found that NSAIDs were more effective at reducing pain than placebos. However, the effects were only seen in the short-term and the drugs were associated with more adverse effects.
They also found that different types of NSAID appeared to be equally effective.
The researchers noted that the short-term use of selective COX-2 inhibitors had fewer (gastrointestinal) side effects than the other NSAIDs.
As a part of the review, the boffins also compared the effects of NSAIDs and paracetamol, another drug used by people with low back pain.
Based on their findings they concluded that both drugs were equally effective at relieving acute low back pain, but paracetamol had fewer side effects.
"Physicians and patients with acute low back pain therefore have a choice about whether to use a NSAID or paracetamol, and the decision should be driven by individual clinical circumstances," says lead author Pepijn Roelofs who works in the Department of general Practice at Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
"Most of these results came from studies of people who did not have sciatica, so we now need studies that look at whether NSAIDs have a role in helping those people as well," says Roelofs.