Naproxen is a drug that has long been available by prescription and over-the-counter. Now researchers say that it may be the better option to treat back pain. Since only about 40% of those suffering go to a physical therapist, medication is the next best thing, so Naproxen may be the winner to deal with the pain.
The study found that Naproxen gives just about the same amount of relief as heavier narcotics and muscle relaxants. It compared the drug to oxycodone with acetaminophen (Percocet), and the muscle relaxant cyclobenzaprine (Amrix). Those taking a combination of medication weren’t doing any better than those only taking Naproxen.
“Acute low back pain is a frustrating condition,” said lead researcher Dr. Benjamin Friedman, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
For some patients, they have already tried over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like Naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), before they come into the emergency room, he added. Many take insufficient doses at wrong intervals and could optimize their NSAID regimen.
“But for those patients who have already optimized their NSAID regimen, there are no additional medical therapies available,” Friedman said. “We don’t have good medical treatment for acute low back pain,” he added.
The study included 300 random patients in an ER complaining of lower back pain. They were assigned to 10 days of treatment with different drug combinations. Before leaving they were given an education on their pain.
“Nearly 50 percent of patients were still suffering one week later. Nearly 25 percent of the patients were still suffering three months later,” he said.
Dr. Houman Danesh, director of integrative pain management in the department of anesthesiology-pain at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said, “This is another study to add to the pile that says narcotics are not appropriate to treat back pain.”
“We know that narcotics lower testosterone levels in both men and women,” Danesh said. For men, replacing testosterone with supplements can increase the risk of heart attack and death. Most back pain gets better on its own without anything.”
Friedman agreed. “Don’t despair — passage of time will cure most low back pain,” he said.
“Some type of complementary therapy such as stretching, yoga, or massage may be more appropriate for many patients,” Friedman said. “The solution to lower back pain is not potent medication.”\\