Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the treatment of low back pain
Louis Kuritzky, George P Samraj
Department of Community Health and Family Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA
Abstract: Low back pain (LBP) is amongst the top ten most common conditions presenting to primary care clinicians in the ambulatory setting. Further, it accounts for a significant amount of health care expenditure; indeed, over one third of all disability dollars spent in the United States is attributable to low back pain. In most cases, acute low back pain is a self-limiting disease. There are many evidence-based guidelines for the management of LBP. The most common risk factor for development of LBP is previous LBP, heavy physical work, and psychosocial risk factors. Management of LBP includes identification of red flags, exclusion of specific secondary causes, and comprehensive musculoskeletal/neurological examination of the lower extremities. In uncomplicated LBP, imaging is unnecessary unless symptoms become protracted. Reassurance that LBP will likely resolve and advice to maintain an active lifestyle despite LBP are the cornerstones of management. Medications are provided not because they change the natural history of the disorder, but rather because they enhance the ability of the patient to become more active, and in some cases, to sleep better. The most commonly prescribed medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and muscle relaxants. Although NSAIDs are a chemically diverse class, their similarities, efficacy, tolerability, and adverse effect profile have more similarities than differences. The most common side effects of NSAIDs are gastrointestinal. Agents with cyclo-oxygenase 2 selectivity are associated with reduced gastrointestinal bleeding, but problematic increases in adverse cardiovascular outcomes continue to spark concern. Fortunately, short-term use of NSAIDs for LBP is generally both safe and effective. This review will focus on the role of NSAIDs in the management of LBP.
Keywords: low back pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cyclo-oxygenase 2
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