Are there low back surgery alternatives that avoid drugs? The most common medications taken for back pain are NSAID drugs like Mortin, Aleve, and Celebrex. Most patients are blown away when I tell them how dangerous these drugs can be. After all, how could dangerous drugs be sold in the grocery store? Why are they dangerous?NSAID drugs Motrin, Aleve, and Celbrex all carry with them massive increases in sudden death heart attack risk. Recently drugs like Aleve have been associated with an increased risk of deadly heart rhythm disturbances like atrial fibrillation. You also continue to have that increased risk for many months after you stop taking the drugs. There are many natural alternatives such as the supplement curcumin which was recently shown to be as effective as Motrin in a randomized controlled trial. In addition, another option to avoid surgery would be hands on therapies like massage or PT. Massage is interesting, as it’s wide availability from malls to airports makes it easy to access. However, how does massage compare to popping a Motrin pill? Based on a recent high quality research study, it compares pretty favorably.
The researchers took 59 low back pain patients and randomized them to either massage alone or massage plus Motrin, the concept being that if motrin was better than the massage the combined therapy group would show much better results. They likely chose this study design because there is no great way to give a “massage placebo”. What did they find at the end of two weeks? The visual analogue scale (i.e. putting a number on your pain from 1-10), Oswestry disability index (ODI), and Roland-Morris questionnaire (RM) were about equal for the two groups, meaning the combination of massage plus the NSAID drug didn’t outperform just a massage alone. This is great news for patients looking for low back pain surgery alternatives, as it provides something that works as well as side effect laden drugs like Motrin, Aleve, and Celebrex.
The upshot? Motrin and other NSAID drugs like Aleve and Celebrex are nasty. Based on their significant side effect profiles, patients simply should not be using these drugs as a low back surgery alternatives. In the meantime, instead of popping a pill for back pain, consider a massage!