Lower back pain: Opioid painkillers provide minimal benefit

Opiate based medications include Codeine, Morphine, Oxycodone / Endo, and Tramadol

A recent interview conducted by ABC reporter, Michael MacKenzie with Professor Andrew McLachlan, discussed the new research finding re effectiveness of Opioid medication in managing lower back pain. Professor McLachlan reported that based on their study comparing 20 RCT and 13 trials, involving a total number of 11,344 participants, it was found that Opioid painkillers provide very little benefit in pain management, averaging 1 unit of difference on Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). VAS is a tool widely used for pain reporting, where on the scale of 0 to 10, 0 is no pain, 10 is the worst pain ever. 1 unit of pain improvement basically means a decrease of pain from x/10 to (x-1)/10.


Andrew has pointed out the need to seek for options other than the traditional passive approaches, e.g. pain medication and bed resting. Options that have been proven to work include prescribed exercise, stretching and physiotherapy.


His above words from the interview truly has shown the level of effort we have invested in coordinating the roles between physiotherapist, doctor, and pharmacist in order to provide better care to patients’ health. The message is and what I would advise is that when a symptom / pain hasn’t improved with prescribed medication, do go back to your treating doctor, and speak to an experienced physio who can also investigate its possible causes and ways in managing your back pain. Always keep your healthcare providers, i.e. physio, pharmacist, doctor, well informed, so that they can share knowledge and coordinate services to provide best care possible when treating the matter of your concern.



Lower back pain- Opioid painkillers provide minimal benefit: ABC

Efficacy, Tolerability, and Dose-Dependent Effects of Opioid Analgesics for Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis