Clinical Edge

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Medication Use in Adults with Chronic Low Back Pain

J Pain; ePub 2018 Apr 17; Shmagel, et al

Opioids are the most common prescription pain medication used by US adults from chronic low back pain (cLBP) and were typically used long-term, a recent study found. The Back Pain Survey was administered to a representative sample of US adults aged 20 to 69 years (n=5,103) during the 2009-2010 cycle of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Researchers found:

  • 36.9% of the study population took at least 1 prescription pain medication in the past 30 days.
  • 18.8% used opioids, 9.7% NSAIDs, 8.5% muscle relaxants, 6.9% gabapentin or pregabalin.
  • Opioids were used long-term in 76.9% of cases (median 2 years) and were frequently co-administered with other CNS-active agents.
  • Opioid use was highly prevalent among less educated subjects.


Shmagel A, Ngo L, Ensrud K, Foley R. Prescription medication use among community-based US adults with chronic low back pain: a cross-sectional population based study. [Published online ahead of print April 17, 2018]. J Pain. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2018.04.004.