A new study has found that drugs to treat back pain are largely ineffective.
The study, from Sydney-based The George Institute for Global Health, says that “commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat back pain provide little benefit, but cause side effects”.
The review has been published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, and reveals only “one in six patients treated with the pills, also known as NSAIDs, achieve any significant reduction in pain”.
After treating thousands of people with back pain, I am not surprised at the findings.
Back pain drugs don’t provide effective long-term treatment, and often don’t target the true source of the problem. Drugs often have a blanket effect, with systemic side effects in the long term.
What then, is the answer to back pain? Unfortunately, there is no off-the-shelf solution. Everybody is different, and there are many different types and causes of back pain. A professional assessment is the best place to start.
We need to test what you can and cannot do and find the source of your problem. Fix the source, fix the problem.
The underlying cause may not be what you expect. It may be posture, an injury, or it may be referred pain from a problem in your body elsewhere. Finding the underlying cause is not possible in a pill packet – it takes time and experience.
The cause can be located by testing a patient’s biomechanics, range and quality of movement. Effective long-term treatment then involves hands-on physio methods such as correcting biomechanics, exercise, correct movement and massage.
Back pain sufferers get into the habit of restricting their movements, an understandable response to pain. But this only makes things worse and the drugs don’t necessarily encourage them to increase their range of movement.
More than anything else, movement is essential for recovery.
Once you have found the underlying cause, treatment is most effective when centred on how to gradually increase your range of movement.
Countless people have been able to lead active, pain-free and fulfilling lives by rejecting drugs and concentrating on these tried-and-true methods.
So before rushing to use anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and aspirin next time you have back pain, think about the study and how ineffective these drugs are. Chances are a proper professional assessment will provide more sustained relief and possibly even a life without back pain.