What’s Worse: The Back Pain Or The Painkillers?

woman mid section back ache painMillions of Americans with back pain take powerful and potentially addictive opioid painkillers. But in a new survey, many say the drugs provide only limited relief and they worry about taking them.

The survey included more than 2,000 people with low back pain. Of the nearly half who were currently taking opioids, only 13 percent said the drugs were very successful at relieving their pain. Forty-four percent said the drugs were somewhat successful, 31 percent said they were moderately successful and 12 percent said they were unsuccessful.

Seventy-five percent said the drugs had side effects such as constipation (65 percent), sleepiness (37 percent), thinking and memory problems (32 percent) and drug dependence (29 percent).

“Patients are increasingly aware that opioids are problematic, but don’t know there are alternative treatment options,” said survey author Dr. Asokumar Buvanendran. He is director of orthopedic anesthesia at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Stigma was another concern for these patients. Forty-one percent of those taking opioids said they felt judged for their use of the drugs. Even though 68 percent of the patients had also taken antidepressants, only 19 percent felt any stigma from using those medications.