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Researchers Compare NSAIDs And Opioids For Osteoarthritis Pain Relief

Medications are one of the most common treatments for osteoarthritic pain, and there is ongoing debate about which type of medication is most effective. Researchers recently compared the effectiveness of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids—and we share their findings with you.

Arthritis can be a painful disease, and research is constantly helping us to understand which treatments most effectively provide osteoarthritic pain relief. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital reviewed published studies that compare the benefits and risks of NSAIDs and opioids. What they found may surprise you.

“There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are a variety of conservative treatments available to ease the pain of this condition,” explains Summit orthopedic surgeon and arthritis subspecialist Dr. Dane Hansen. “We follow pain treatment research carefully so we can provide the most current information about effective pain management for our patients. When evaluating nonsteroidal and opioid medications, it is also important to make a distinction between acute and chronic arthritic pain. At Summit, we believe that although opioid—or narcotic—medications may be appropriate to treat short-term acute pain in some circumstances, opioids are inappropriate for the management of long-term chronic pain. For patients with chronic arthritic pain, the pain relief provided by opioids is overshadowed by the risks of addiction and dependence that come with long-term use.”

This month, the Osteoarthritis and Cartilage journal has published new findings that compare the effectiveness of NSAIDs versus opioid medications in reducing knee osteoarthritis pain. Researchers gathered the results of trials published between 1982 and 2015 that evaluated the effectiveness of NSAIDs and opioids to treat osteoarthritic knee pain. All of these trials measured pain relief using the widely accepted WOMAC pain measurement, which rates pain on a scale from 0 (no pain) to 100 (the worst pain). Their analysis revealed the following:

“Osteoarthritis is a chronic, or ongoing, pain condition like low back pain—and chronic pain problems tend to be more difficult to treat effectively,” notes Dr. Hansen. “This research gives us a benchmark for the amount of pain relief patients can expect, keeping in mind that the effectiveness of any pain medication varies from patient to patient, and that we will always weigh the risks as well as the benefits when personalizing pain treatment for our patients.”

When to seek treatment for your arthritis

Arthritis doesn’t have to spell the end of an active life. If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms or persistent pain, the renowned arthritis specialists at Summit Orthopedics can help. We work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop an appropriate conservative treatment plan. If nonsurgical treatments fail to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons will consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options. Summit is home to innovative joint replacement options. Our Vadnais Heights Surgery Center is one of only two surgery centers nationally to receive The Joint Commission’s Advanced Certification for Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement.

Start your journey to healthier joints. Find your arthritis expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNPlymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

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