Placebo as effective as valium at relieving back pain in the ER, study shows

Patients with acute lower back pain who presented to the emergency room and were given naproxen and a placebo had outcomes that were as good as or better than those patients who were given naproxen and Valium, according to a study in Annals of Emergency Medicine.

"Our study contributes to the growing body of literature indicating that, in general, most medications do not improve acute lower back pain," said Benjamin Friedman, MD, the study's lead author.

Researchers randomized a group of 114 patients who came to the ER with new-onset lower back pain — some were given a nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory medication and diazepam (generic Valium), and the other group got the anti-inflammatory and a placebo.

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One week after their ED visit, the diazepam group reported the same pain improvement as the placebo group.

"Millions of patients come to the ER every year seeking relief from back pain, which can be debilitating," said Dr. Friedman. "Unfortunately, we have yet to come up with a silver bullet in pill form that helps them. If anything we may be overmedicating these patients."

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