Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi
Back pain is one of the most common pain conditions that plague Americans on a regular basis, as up to 90 percent of the population with deal with spine pain at some point in their life. Because back pain is so common, it’s one of the leading conditions for which patients take opioids and painkillers to manage.
While painkillers and opioids can help to decrease discomfort and pain associated with back problems, they aren’t a great long-term solution. They don’t help to actively treat the problem, and eventually you need higher doses in order for them to be effective, which can increase your likelihood of abusing or becoming addicted to pills. Recently, a recent study took aim at the best ways to reduce the likelihood of opioid dependency after spine surgery, and we’re going to take a closer look at the findings below.
Opioids After Back Surgery
Interestingly, the biggest factor for whether or not someone would have continued opioid use after a spine surgery wasn’t the type of surgery they underwent or how many weeks of physical therapy they would need, it was whether or not they were regularly taking painkillers prior to their operation. What’s more, researchers found that individuals who were taking opioids prior to surgery were less likely to experience the best surgical outcomes.
According to the study published in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, pre-operative opioid use was the strongest predictor of continued use after a spinal operation. This is concerning when you consider that researchers estimate that up to half of the people undergoing spine surgery are taking opioids at the time of their operation. Researchers found that individuals who were taking prescription painkillers for at least six months prior to an operation were between 65 and 74 percent less likely to stop using them after an operation than those who weren’t taking them before their surgery.
Also, surgical success rates were lower for individuals regularly taking opioids prior to their operation. Another study found that opioid use prior to spinal fusion surgery was associated with a higher likelihood of continued back pain, disability scores and lower mental health scores. However, if we can work to eliminate opioid use prior to surgery, not only can we improve patient outcomes, we can reduce their likelihood of post-op opioid use or dependence.
The findings are beneficial for both patient and provider. Both parties should work on reducing or eliminating opioid use prior to a spinal operation in order to give the patient the best chance at a successful operation and reduce their likelihood of returning to painkillers after the operation. We need to look at the physical symptoms as well as the psychological aspects of a patient’s mental health to help them get to a healthy place prior to an operation. Opioids are not a long-term solution, but surgery can be, so long as pre-operative opioid use doesn’t hinder your ability to make a full recovery.
If you have questions about how to reduce your painkiller intake prior to a spinal operation, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.