Research News: Opioids No More Effective than Placebo for Acute Back or Neck Pain
A randomized controlled trial published in The Lancet in June 2023 investigated the efficacy and safety of a “judicious short course of an opioid analgesic for acute low back pain and neck pain.” The study found that six weeks of opioid treatment was no more effective than placebo for acute back or neck pain. One year later, more people in the opioid group reported ongoing pain. Those receiving opioids also reported more adverse events.
While previous research has focused on chronic back pain, this study is notable in that it examines non-specific, acute back and neck pain less than three months in duration.
Michele Maiers, DC, PhD, MPH, Executive Director of Research and Innovation at NWHSU, weighed in on the importance of this research:
“This high quality randomized controlled trial fills an important gap in the literature specific to managing acute spinal pain, and adds to growing evidence that opioids are generally not helpful for treating back, neck pain, or other musculoskeletal pain.
“It underscores the need for greater patient access to guideline concordant, non-opioid treatments for spinal conditions, including chiropractic spinal manipulation, acupuncture, massage, and exercise interventions.”