Medication may be recommended to treat spinal stenosis if there’s nerve compression contributing to related pain. While many drugs used to control inflammation and related symptoms provide meaningful relief for patients, a new study suggests one drug frequently prescribed to manage spinal stenosis pain may not be effective for that purpose.
Researchers at the University of Rochester have concluded that Pregabalin, a drug primarily used to treat nerve damage in the arms, hands, fingers, arms, legs, and feet, isn’t effective for spinal stenosis affecting the lower back. FDA-approved to treat chronic pain, the drug is often prescribed to treat spinal stenosis even though that is not its intended purpose. The likely reason for prescribing the drug for spinal stenosis patients is a desire by board-certified back doctors to minimize the use of opioid pain medications due to a high risk of addiction.
In order to test the effectiveness of Pregabalin, researchers gave a group of patients with spinal stenosis the drug, with some patients given a placebo for a period of time before being given the actual drug while others were given the placebo after taking Pregabalin. Patients were asked to report their pain levels after walking on a treadmill for 15 minutes. While roughly 40 percent of people taking the drug reported feeling dizzy, there was no evidence of pain management benefits.
To be fair, the study wasn’t widespread enough to conclusively say that Pregabalin won’t help any patients with spinal stenosis. It does, however, suggest that patients need to be carefully monitored while on any drug to manage discomfort experienced when nerves are compressed by a narrow spinal canal. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), on the other hand, are known to be an effective treatment for controlling related tissue swelling that often increases the risk of experiencing nerve compression.
If certain medications prove to be ineffective for spinal stenosis, patients have other options for relief, which often comes from a combination of treatments. Remedies can include changes in posture, personalized physical therapy sessions, muscle-strengthening exercises, and adjustments to certain movements that may trigger pain.
If you’ve been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and would like a second opinion or more information on treatment options, reach out to Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of spine specialists in Santa Monica at The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. Schedule your in-person consultation by calling (310) 828-7757 today.