Heavy painkillers, such as oxycodone, are not helpful for back and neck pain. In fact, opioids can be harmful, as they are addictive and cause dangerous side effects.
This emerged from research conducted by the University of Sydney (Australia) and Erasmus MC in Rotterdam.
For the first time, they investigated the effect of heavy analgesics in about 350 patients who had recently started to have back and neck complaints. One group received an opioid, while the other received a placebo pill that looked exactly the same. After six weeks, both groups experienced the same amount of pain. A year later, opioid abusers fared worse: A third had experienced at least one side effect, such as nausea or constipation.
In the Netherlands, about a million people use strong painkillers. Originally, opioids were intended for people who were in severe pain from cancer or were in the last stage of their lives. Nowadays, many people who suffer from chronic pain or back and neck problems also use medications.
In recent years, doctors and the government have already tried to reduce opioid use. But in 2021, the number of users has increased. In the United States, oxycodone in particular is causing major problems because so many people have become addicted to it.
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According to researcher Bart Koes, who is also an epidemiologist and professor of general medicine at Erasmus MC, the number of users in the Netherlands could be reduced. About two million Dutch people suffer from back and neck problems, and some of them take heavy painkillers for this. “Opiates do nothing but a placebo. So our main message is that clinicians should refrain from prescribing such medications for these pain complaints.”
Therefore, our main message is that physicians should refrain from prescribing such medications for these pain complaints
The majority of patients receive heavy sedation through their general practitioner. But medical professionals often prescribe medications. However, patients benefit most from good information, says Koise. We advise people with back and neck problems to continue their daily activities such as cycling, walking or swimming as much as possible and possibly to see a physiotherapist. This gives a lot of relief.”
Researchers believe that guidelines for the use of opioids in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain should be modified. They advise against using heavy painkillers. The GP can also prescribe paracetamol. This also may not be more effective than a placebo, but the side effects are in any case more unpleasant than with opioids,” says Koz.
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