Spine made out of pills

Nurofen and Back Pain

Have you been taking Nurofen for your back pain?
A recent study suggests this might not be such a great idea.

IMPORTANT: We will be briefly discussing medication in this post. Please consult your G.P. before starting or stopping any medications.

The UK study found that in a studied group of people with back pain, those who took NSAIDs (e.g. Nurofen) as part of their management were 1.76x more likely to develop chronic pain.

Now, I’m not a doctor so I can’t recommend starting or stopping medications but I do know a thing or two about back pain. This study makes sense to me from a physiology perspective.

In terms of the body’s ability to heal, the bottom line is that inflammation is good. It’s the body’s way of helping its healing process. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), like Nurofen, are designed to decrease inflammation. Read another way – they impair the body’s natural ability to heal.


A quick look at what people who have done the research say

While Nurofen has been part of pain management strategies for some time, there was a bit of a caveat when it came to back pain. There are two major pieces of research to look at here. Both are Cochrane reviews, which in the research world, is the cream of the crop. When they speak, we listen.

If you’ve had low back pain for less than three months (defined as acute) then it seems that NSAID’s are slightly more effective than placebo. Yay? This might be good you say however the authors were “unable to draw conclusions about adverse events and the safety of NSAIDs for longer-term use”.

What about if if I’ve had low back pain for at least 3 months? Then you fit into the “chronic” bracket.

For Chronic Low Back Pain, the 2016 Cochrane review found that there is low quality evidence that NSAIDs are slightly better in reducing pain and disability than placebo but the effect is very small and possibly not clinically relevant.


Yes, Nurofen probably does help a bit if you’re dealing with low back pain and you’ve had it for less than three months HOWEVER by taking Nurofen you may be at increased risk of that pain lasting longer than three months (1.76 times more likely this study suggests).

I’ll say it again for the people in the back – before making any decisions about your medication, speak with your G.P. I’m not a doctor.

If you want to get rid of your back pain medication-free, then book in now for an assessment and treatment plan.

Where to from here?

What are your options? Broadly speaking there are probably three.

1) Do nothing – put up with the pain and wait for it to get better.
2) Find the problem and get it sorted (this generally involves Physiotherapy)
3) Mask the symptoms with pain relief

I realise these options sound pretty biased but these are all legitimate options that people take every day. Quite often things will slowly resolve by themselves. Sometimes people just need to take the edge off the pain to get through their day. But sometimes (and I’d argue often), back pain gets in the way of life and when people do something about it, they’re no longer stuck with options 1 and 3.


If you’re ready to take the next step in getting rid of your back pain without relying on medications, click here to book online now.



Enthoven, W. T., Roelofs, P. D., Deyo, R. A., Van Tulder, M. W., & Koes, B. W. (2016). Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for chronic low back pain. _Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews_, _2016_(8). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd012087

Parisien, M., Lima, L. V., Dagostino, C., El-Hachem, N., Drury, G. L., Grant, A. V., Huising, J., Verma, V., Meloto, C. B., Silva, J. R., Dutra, G. G. S., Markova, T., Dang, H., Tessier, P. A., Slade, G. D., Nackley, A. G., Ghasemlou, N., Mogil, J. S., Allegri, M., & Diatchenko, L. Acute inflammatory response via neutrophil activation protects against the development of chronic pain. _Science Translational Medicine_, _14_(644), eabj9954. https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.abj9954

Van Der Gaag, W. H., Roelofs, P. D., Enthoven, W. T., Van Tulder, M. W., & Koes, B. W. (2020). Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for acute low back pain. _Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews_. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd013581