People with musculoskeletal back pain who were prescribed opioids did not fare much better than those who were not prescribed pain medication, according to a study conducted by several universities and health systems in Australia.
The study, published June 28 in The Lancet, included 347 participants “with 12 weeks or less of low back or neck pain (or both) of at least moderate pain.” Of those, 174 participants received opioids for pain and the rest received a placebo.
When measuring reported pain at six weeks, using the 10-point pain subscale of the Brief Pain Inventory, the opioid group’s mean score was 2.78 and the placebo group reported a mean of 2.25. In addition, 35% of those in the opioid group reported at least one adverse event, most of which were drug-related, compared with 30% in the placebo group.
The researchers wrote that “(o)pioids should not be recommended for acute nonspecific low back pain or neck pain given that we found no significant difference in pain severity compared to placebo. This finding calls for a change in the frequent use of opioids for these conditions .”;