Taking Ibuprofen for a bad back may make the pain worse

Image: Taking Ibuprofen can make back pain worse. Credit: Jeshoots.

A major UK study has found that using ibuprofen to treat a bad back may increase the chances of long-term pain.

Ibuprofen was one of the anti-inflammatory painkillers assessed in the research the that looked at usage among half a million British adults compared with those who had taken alternatives such as paracetamol, The Times reported on May 11.

Findings show that users of anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen had a 70 per cent higher risk of developing long-term pain.

Researchers believe that anti-inflammatories hinder an aspect of the immune system that plays an important role in repairing damage.

“For many decades it’s been standard medical practice to treat pain with anti-inflammatory drugs. But we found that this short-term fix could lead to longer-term problems,” Professor Jeffrey Mogil, of McGill University in Canada, one of the senior authors, said.

Approximately ten million Britons suffer back pain. In England some 5.5 million have severe back pain that has lasted three months or more, according to an estimate from Imperial College London.

Professor Blair Smith of the University of Dundee, who was not involved in the study, said “it is important to note that this is just one study.

“More research is needed to confirm and investigate this further. It is also important to note that anti-inflammatory drugs are effective in short-term pain management.

“Anti-inflammatory drugs have a number of other potentially dangerous side effects, and their long-term use is generally discouraged, other than with caution.”

Dr Franziska Denk, senior lecturer at King’s College London, said: “This study is a wonderful start … but it now needs to be replicated and further investigated by other scientists.

“It would most definitely be premature to make any recommendations regarding people’s medication until we have results of a prospectively designed clinical trial.”

The study, which looked at people who had signed up to the UK Biobank scheme, is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.


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Fergal MacErlean

Originally from Dublin, Fergal is based on the eastern Costa del Sol and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

Comments


    • Dr John Andrew Sutton

      12 May 2022 • 15:40

      The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) are stronger analgesics than paracetamol so they are used by people who have more serious pain. Their injury or lesion is therefore larger, deeper etc, a convincing explanation for a greater risk of their pain becoming more chronic than for the patients who took the lesser analgesic. I see no mention of this possibility in this report, possibly because it is too mundane to be worth reporting. It’s much more interesting to leap to the conclusion that the drugs are the cause. I note that both researcher and the newspapers gain from alarms like this, but the public stand to lose a valuable painkiller.

      Reply

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