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GPs rely on drugs for low back pain

GPs are losing faith in alternative strategies for managing low back pain and relying on drug interventions instead, new research suggests.

In a paper presented to the meeting, GPs were shown to be increasingly prescribing pharmaceutical therapies for back pain before referring, rather than trying physiotherapy or psychotherapy.

Researchers working at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary examined treatments tried in primary care before referral to a pain clinic between 1991 and 2004.

They found GPs' opioid use rose from 13.7 per cent to 33 per cent, antidepressants from 13.7 per cent to 66 per cent and anticonvulsants from 3.7 per cent to 17 per cent.

Rehabilitation strategies and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation had been tried in more than half of the patients referred to pain clinics.

Professor Martin Underwood, professor of general practice at St Bartholomew's and the London Medical School, said the increase in use of opioids for chronic malignant pain was 'a global trend'.

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