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Researchers testing benefits of sleeping pill on back pain

06 Mar 2017
Researchers testing benefits of sleeping pill on back pain article image

Back pain is the number one cause of disability in the world and sufferers desperately want new treatments to solve this crippling condition.

Australian experts are testing the benefits of a common sleeping tablet as a possible new way of providing relief.

Neuroscience Research Australia said preliminary studies on 26 patients suggest the medication zopiclone also carries powerful "analgesic effects".

"The patients on our trial who take the drug compared to patients who take just a sugar pill are doing much better after about two weeks," the trial's lead investigator, Dr James McAuley, said.

"Their pain intensity has reduced by about 30 or 40 percent", he said.

‘My sleeping definitely improved'

Futures trader Matt O'Connell, 54, took part in the trial three months ago.

While he wasn't told whether he was on the active drug or placebo, he firmly believes the trial medication helped him.

"Afterwards I felt normal," Mr O'Connell said.

"My sleeping definitely improved and I had less pain afterwards," he said.

The study gives people with crippling back pain hope, in light of mounting evidence that common pain killers have no or little benefit.

Recent research from the George Institute for Global Health found that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Nurofen and Voltaren provided minimal benefits and a high risk of side effects.

That followed a 2015 study which showed paracetamol was ineffective for back pain.

New strategies needed

"We're really not managing back pain very well at all," Dr McAuley said.

"We need new strategies and new approaches."

Dr McAuley said the trial could open up a new way of stopping low back pain from developing into a long-term chronic condition.

Investigators are looking at recruiting 20 more patients.

They are planning to carry out non-invasive brain scans to uncover more information about the medication's effects.

The sedative targets a neurochemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid, otherwise known as GABA.

Volunteers will receive a $100 shopping voucher for their time.

Visit Neuroscience Research Australia or email pain@neura.edu.au for more information.

Source: George Institute for Global Health (the Conversation)

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