Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for spinal pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Three articles on PainSci cite Machado 2017: 1. The Complete Guide to Low Back Pain 2. The Complete Guide to Neck Pain & Cricks 3. The Science of Pain-Killers
PainSci notes on Machado 2017:
In this review of 35 RCTs, both pill placebos and common anti-inflammatories for back pain had a “smallest worthwhile effect” of about 10%. “At present, there are no simple analgesics that provide clinically important effects for spinal pain over placebo.”
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: While it is now clear that paracetamol is ineffective for spinal pain, there is not consensus on the efficacy of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for this condition. We performed a systematic review with meta-analysis to determine the efficacy and safety of NSAIDs for spinal pain.
METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, CENTRAL and LILACS for randomised controlled trials comparing the efficacy and safety of NSAIDs with placebo for spinal pain. Reviewers extracted data, assessed risk of bias and evaluated the quality of evidence using the Grade of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach. A between-group difference of 10 points (on a 0-100 scale) was used for pain and disability as the smallest worthwhile effect, as well as to calculate numbers needed to treat. Random-effects models were used to calculate mean differences or risk ratios with 95% CIs.
RESULTS: We included 35 randomised placebo-controlled trials. NSAIDs reduced pain and disability, but provided clinically unimportant effects over placebo. Six participants (95% CI 4 to 10) needed to be treated with NSAIDs, rather than placebo, for one additional participant to achieve clinically important pain reduction. When looking at different types of spinal pain, outcomes or time points, in only 3 of the 14 analyses were the pooled treatment effects marginally above our threshold for clinical importance. NSAIDs increased the risk of gastrointestinal reactions by 2.5 times (95% CI 1.2 to 5.2), although the median duration of included trials was 7 days.
CONCLUSIONS: NSAIDs are effective for spinal pain, but the magnitude of the difference in outcomes between the intervention and placebo groups is not clinically important. At present, there are no simple analgesics that provide clinically important effects for spinal pain over placebo. There is an urgent need to develop new drug therapies for this condition.
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