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Anticonvulsants in the treatment of low back pain and lumbar radicular pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis

PainSci » bibliography » Enke et al 2018
Tags: treatment, medications, back pain, spine, sciatica, self-treatment, pain problems, butt, hip

Five articles on PainSci cite Enke 2018: 1. The Complete Guide to Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain2. The Complete Guide to Low Back Pain3. The Complete Guide to Neck Pain & Cricks4. Neuropathies Are Overdiagnosed5. Cramps, Spasms, Tremors & Twitches

PainSci commentary on Enke 2018: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

This review of 9 trials gives two thumbs down for anticonvulsants (gabapentin, pregabalin) for back pain, sciatica, cranky nerve roots. And there are risks. I know this will shock you, but apparently these drugs have some side effects.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: The use of anticonvulsants (e.g., gabapentin, pregabalin) to treat low back pain has increased substantially in recent years despite limited supporting evidence. We aimed to determine the efficacy and tolerability of anticonvulsants in the treatment of low back pain and lumbar radicular pain compared with placebo.

METHODS: A search was conducted in 5 databases for studies comparing an anticonvulsant to placebo in patients with nonspecific low back pain, sciatica or neurogenic claudication of any duration. The outcomes were self-reported pain, disability and adverse events. Risk of bias was assessed using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) scale, and quality of evidence was assessed using Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE). Data were pooled and treatment effects were quantified using mean differences for continuous and risk ratios for dichotomous outcomes.

RESULTS: Nine trials compared topiramate, gabapentin or pregabalin to placebo in 859 unique participants. Fourteen of 15 comparisons found anticonvulsants were not effective to reduce pain or disability in low back pain or lumbar radicular pain; for example, there was high-quality evidence of no effect of gabapentinoids versus placebo on chronic low back pain in the short term (pooled mean difference [MD] -0.0, 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.8 to 0.7) or for lumbar radicular pain in the immediate term (pooled MD -0.1, 95% CI -0.7 to 0.5). The lack of efficacy is accompanied by increased risk of adverse events from use of gabapentinoids, for which the level of evidence is high.

INTERPRETATION: There is moderate- to high-quality evidence that anticonvulsants are ineffective for treatment of low back pain or lumbar radicular pain. There is high-quality evidence that gabapentinoids have a higher risk for adverse events.

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