Study questions effectiveness of invasive procedures for chronic pain

A research team is questioning the effectiveness of invasive procedures used to treat chronic pain following a study recently published in Pain Medicine.

For the study, the team looked at how effective invasive procedures are at reducing chronic pain and improving a person’s quality of life when compared to placebo procedures. According to the study, more than 100 million people currently suffer from chronic pain. It’s also estimated that 25.3 million people—or 11.2 percent of the U.S. population—suffer from daily chronic pain.

Despite there being little evidence to support the use of invasive procedures to treat chronic pain, the authors said they have been increasingly used as a treatment method.

“Our findings raise several questions for clinicians, researchers, and policy makers. First, can we justify widespread use of these procedures without rigorous testing? Without such testing, the true efficacy of invasive procedures for chronic pain will remain unknown,” the study said. “The risks of surgical and invasive procedures are not minor and appear to be higher with real compared with sham procedures.”

For the study, the team reviewed 25 randomized trials that compared invasive procedures with placebo ones for treating chronic pain conditions. According to the results, the team found little evidence that invasive procedures were more effective than placebo (sham) procedures.

“In the 14 studies providing sufficient data, the risk of any adverse event was significantly higher in the active groups (12 percent) than in the sham groups (4 percent),” the study said.

The authors suggested that physicians avoid using invasive procedures to treat chronic pain until further research is conducted.

“The medical profession needs more nonpharmacological approaches for chronic pain, so it is unfortunate that the current evidence does not support the efficacy of invasive procedures for this problem,” the study concluded. “The implications of continuing to use these procedures without knowing whether they provide specific benefit are in urgent need of further research and discussion.”