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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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October 2018 (Vol. 3 Issue 8)

Stop prescribing anticonvulsants for back pain, doctors urged
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Stop prescribing anticonvulsants for back pain, doctors urged image

Doctors are a resourceful bunch, and they'll often go 'off-label' to prescribe a drug for a condition for which it was never intended. One of the latest examples is the use of powerful anticonvulsants for epilepsy and seizures to treat low back pain—and, not surprisingly, a new review has concluded they don't work and are dangerous.

Prescribing anticonvulsants for back and neck pain has increased by 535 per cent in the last 10 years. Although the drugs—such as diazepam (Valium)—are supposed to control epilepsy and seizures, they can also help ease neuropathic (nerve) pain and are far stronger than most standard painkillers.

The practice goes against US and UK clinical guidelines to treat low back pain, such as non-drug approaches like osteopathy and massage, or the use of mild painkillers.

In a review of nine major studies, researchers from the University of Sydney concluded there's no evidence that anticonvulsants help ease low back pain. Worse, they cause a range of adverse reactions, from dizziness, nausea, tremors and fatigue.


References

Source: Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2018; 190: E786; doi: 10.1503/cmaj.171333)

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