Is Valium really an alternative treatment for back pain?

Valium for backpainValium is a very commonly prescribed drug to patients with back pain. Athletes as well as most patients suffering from back pain are continually prescribed Valium for short term relief.

In recent years, this drug has been under the microscope. A new study by the Annals of Emergency Medicine on February 22nd reported that Valium is as or even less effective than a placebo. The study brought to light the ineffectiveness of the drug in treating back pain and proved that the disadvantages of using Valium for back pain far outweighed the any good it could possibly do.

Details of the study:

The study was conducted on 114 patients who visited the emergency room for back pain complaints. The patients were randomized and divided into two groups. The first group was prescribed naproxen (sold under Aleva, a non-prescription drug) along with Valium. The other group was given naproxen and a placebo. The patients were made to answer questionnaires and the results were analyzed. They are as follows:

  • After one week: 32% of the Valium takers still complained of back pain versus 22% in the placebo users.
  • After 3 months: 12% of patients taking Valium continued to complain of pain as opposed to only 9% of the other group

This difference is not enough to pose a statistically provable outcome and hence implies that the pill is not very effective in improving back pain.

The results of this study are in line with the guidelines by the American College of Physicians, which also indicate the inefficiency of most medicines to treat back pain.

Drawbacks of the study: Dr. Robert Duarte from Northwell Health’s Pain Center in Great Neck, N.Y reviewed the study and listed a few limitations. He reported that the study did not take into account people with medical history of back pain in the trial. This might have some effect on the outcome. Also as the study used Valium in combination with Naproxen, the results could not be assigned to Valium alone

Harmful effects of using Valium:

effect of using valium

The drug causes a lot of side effects like loss in co-ordination and sleepiness. It is also known to increase cognitive decline and the risk of fainting/ falling. But more importantly is the fact that Valium can be quite addictive and if not weaned off properly can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. This is especially significant when prescribed to patients with chronic or long-term back pain complaints.

The new advice is that back pain is a complicated phenomenon. The physician must investigate the various factors that cause the back pain. Physicians should avoid prescribing these to patients as a quick relief. It will only do more harm than good.

Alternative back pain treatments:

Lower back pain is very difficult to manage. As mentioned above, back pain is an individual complaint and each patient must be studied to give a treatment best suited to them. A lot of organizations including the American College of Physicians (ACP) now urges physicians to use drug-free treatment options such as yoga, heat treatment, acupuncture etc. These may have far reaching effects on the patients and prove a better treatment course than Valium.