Potentially addictive opioid💊 painkillers are often prescribed for chronic pain, but they actually work only slightly better than placebo pills, a new review shows.
The analysis, of 96 clinical trials, found that on average, opioids made only a small difference for people with conditions like osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and sciatica.
“Opioids should not be a first-line therapy for chronic, non-cancer pain,” said lead researcher Jason Busse, of the Institute for Pain Research and Care at McMaster University, in Canada.
Dr. Michael Ashburn, a pain medicine specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, agreed.
“This is confirmation of the limited role opioids play in treating chronic, non-cancer pain,” Ashburn said.
So what are the alternatives?
Overall, his team found, opioids were no better than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.
But, he stressed, there are also non-drug options — including physical therapy🧘, exercise, acupuncture and cognitive behavioral therapy.