Opioids are overrated for some common back pain, a study suggests

A recent study showed no significant difference in the severity of acute back or neck pain after six weeks in patients treated with opioids compared to those given a placebo.

The findings: The Australian study, published in The Lancet, involved over 340 patients suffering from acute, nonspecific back or neck pain, with no significant difference in pain severity noted between the group treated with opioids and the group given a placebo.
* Moreover, those who were given opioids showed a heightened risk of drug misuse a year later.

Questioning current practice: The research is expected to challenge established guidelines on the treatment of acute back pain.
* As practitioners typically prescribe a short course of opioids if over-the-counter remedies prove ineffective, these results may necessitate a shift in treatment strategies.

Potential limitations: Some experts have expressed concern that these findings may be overgeneralized, cautioning that the study’s specifics may not fully reflect the broad context of treating acute pain in the U.S.
* There are differing opinions on whether this study’s results should be immediately applied to modify guidelines and treatment practices.

Further research needed: Despite the strong design of the study, experts agree that this single study should not be taken as conclusive.
* It is expected to motivate future research on the effectiveness of prescription opioids for various pain conditions.

View original article on NPR

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