Back pain is one of the most common complaints that physicians face all over the world, afflicting up to 19 percent of working adults. Opioid drugs, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin are often prescribed to control the pain in chronic cases.
A new study finds that these narcotic drugs should only be used to treat pain for a short term and not be continued for long as it would result in its abuse.
'Opioids may be effective for short-term relief,' said study author Dr. Bridget A. Martell. 'But all studies [reviewed] were less than four months.'
Martell and her colleagues at Pfizer New Haven Clinical Research Unit reviewed the results of 38 previously published studies. 'The meta-analysis does not show statistical significance that opioids work any better than placebo,' she said, although 'they possibly work for short-term relief.'
Five reports included in the reviewed studies revealed medication-taking behaviors such as ordering refills before they are needed, which led health experts to suspect drug abuse. Such behaviors were found in over 24 percent of cases.
Chronic back pain can be treated in other ways like exercise, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), tricyclic antidepressants, acupuncture and electrical stimulation.
Martell advices patients with chronic back pain, 'Consider all your options carefully, weigh the risks vs. the benefits of those options, and be sure to seek specialty care from a pain specialist.'