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Researchers Find Common Painkillers Ineffective Against Back Pain

Feb 06, 2017 10:45 AM EST
Paracetamol tablets sit on a table on July 24, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. In a new study published in the prestigious medical journal, 'The Lancet' the most common pain reliever for back pain, paracetamol, does not work any better than a placebo.

(Photo : Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Scientists have revealed that over-the-counter painkillers such as Ibuprofen and Aspirin do not actually relieve backaches. In fact, patients taking them are likely to suffer from stomach problems. The study was conducted by experts from The George Institute, at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

The review, which was published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, analyzed 35 peer-reviewed trials on the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). With over 6,000 cases of patients reviewed, they found that those who are using them 2.5 times more are likely to suffer from stomach ulcers and bleeding.

Science Alert revealed that the ratio of patients reporting to have decreased pain is 1:6 (one being the patient who reported a significant pain decrease, and six for those who did not feel any pain decrease after two weeks on NSAID.

"Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is commonly managed by prescribing medicines such as anti-inflammatories," said Manuela Ferreira, an associate professor and senior research fellow at The George Instistute of Bone and Joint Research, in a press release. "But our results show anti-inflammatory drugs actually only provide very limited short term pain relief. They do reduce the level of pain, but only very slightly, and arguably not of any clinical significance."

Ferreira said that if you look at the bigger picture and include the side effects, it shows that these drugs are not effective in providing pain relief for millions of Australians every year.

According to The Sun, most clinical guidelines currently recommend NSAIDs as second line painkillers after paracetamol. But most of the time, 99.9 percent of back pains are relieved in a matter of weeks or months, even without prescription. The review highlights the need to find a more effective way to provide ease for backaches.

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