"For this group of patients, with acute nonspecific low back pain with an average duration of nine days, the guidelines recommend the importance of staying active and [taking] relatively simple painkillers such as acetaminophen," Mazanec said.
Still, "this is the first study in a well-characterized group of patients to support the guidelines," he said.
The potential side effects of NSAIDs make avoiding them advisable if possible, Albert said. But one or another of them may still be used in individual cases, since different people may get some relief from one NSAID but not another, he said.
"There is individuality to response," he said.
Other NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).
While diclofenac did not speed the progression to recovery from pain, "that doesn't mean it should not be used, because it may make patients more comfortable along the way," Albert said.
Side effects of NSAID treatment in the study included gastrointestinal disturbances, dizziness and heart palpitations. However, the incidence of such side effects was about the same in the group getting the placebo drug treatment, the researchers noted.
There's more on back pain at the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Todd J. Albert, M.D., professor, orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia; Daniel Mazanec, M.D., associate director, Cleveland Clinic Center for Spinal Health; Nov. 10, 2007, The Lancet
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