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Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for low-back pain


Riyadh, January 26 2008 – A review study that was published lately on the journal The Cochrane Library concluded that Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen and ibuprofen are no more effective than acetaminophen when it comes to treating low back pain.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most frequently prescribed medications worldwide and are commonly used for treating low-back pain. This review found 65 studies (including over 11,000 patients) of mixed methodological quality that compared various NSAIDs with placebo (an inactive substance that has no treatment value), other drugs, other therapies and with other NSAIDs. The review authors conclude that NSAIDs are slightly effective for short-term symptomatic relief in patients with acute and chronic low-back pain without sciatica (pain and tingling radiating down the leg). In patients with acute sciatica, no difference in effect between NSAIDs and placebo was found.

The review authors also found that NSAIDs are not more effective than other drugs (paracetamol/acetaminophen, narcotic analgesics, and muscle relaxants). Placebo and paracetamol/acetaminophen had fewer side effects than NSAIDs, though the latter has fewer side effects than muscle relaxants and narcotic analgesics. The new COX-2 NSAIDs do not seem to be more effective than traditional NSAIDs, but are associated with fewer side effects, particularly stomach ulcers. However, other literature has shown that some COX-2 NSAIDs are associated with increased cardiovascular risk.

The review noted a number of limitations in the studies. Only 42% of the studies were considered to be of high quality. Many of the studies had small numbers of patients, which limits the ability to detect differences between the NSAID and the control group. There are few data on long term results and long-term side effects.

Source: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008 Issue 1