NSAIDs may not be the answer for lower back pain

Lower back pain affects nearly 1 in 10 people across the globe, recently becoming the world’s leading cause of disability. When the debilitating pain strikes, your first thought may be to reach for a painkiller, like ibuprofen – anything to stop the pain…

But before you pop that painkiller, you may want to read this first.

Researchers from the University of Sydney examined the results of 35 randomised, placebo-controlled trials, looking into the association between non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and disability.

Their results, published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, were pretty eye-opening. They found that the use of NSAIDs was “clinically unimportant” when compared to the placebo. They concede that they were effective for spinal pain, although the pain-relieving effects were just the same for those who took a placebo.

It turns out you might actually be doing more harm than good.

The researchers point out that the risk of gastrointestinal reactions increased 2.5 times for those who took NSAIDs over the seven day trial.

But that isn’t to say you should just suffer in silence and not be proactive – in fact, quite the opposite, you should be more active.

Exercise has been known to support lower back pain for some time – it’s even on the clinical practise guidelines for European and US physicians.

A study from 2010 examined 37 randomised controlled trials and found that, compared to usual care, exercise was able to improve post-treatment pain intensity, disability and long-term function for sufferers of chronic low-back pain.

But before you think you have to go running around to keep your back pain at bay, a slightly less rigorous work-out could help too.

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that yoga may assist in improvements to back pain after six months of treatment, compared to non-exercise groups.

So next time a bout of lower back pain strikes, reach for your yoga pants and not the packet of ibuprofen.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dominic Rees
Editorial Health Researcher