Opioids for back, knee, and hip pain? A chat with Dr. Erin Krebs

You have undoubtedly heard about the opioid crisis. It is a near daily part of my life since treating pain is a hefty part of what most doctors do. In addition, I am fortunate to work in an academic health setting so I am surrounded by researchers and teachers. Just this week, one of my friends and colleagues, Dr. Charlie Reznikoff was in Washington DC where he testified about opioids to members of Congress. So you might say I’m surrounded by smart people on this issue.

In this post, I want to draw your attention to some new information about treating arthritis pain.  A new study was recently published in JAMA (one of the most respected journals in existence) which concluded that for chronic back pain and arthritis pain of the hips and knees, opioids are no better than other remedies.

Let me say that startling conclusion again:  opioids are no better than non-opioid treatments at relieving low back, knee, and hip pain.  There is NO advantage, and plenty of risk, in using opioids to treat these chronic pain conditions.

This is big news.  For me, it is just a little bigger because the lead author of the study is a Minneapolis physician from my medical school class, Dr. Erin Krebs. Dr. Krebs is a leading researcher in this area and I may add, a terrific doctor and person. To her, I say, well done! To learn more about Dr. Krebs, check out her site from the VA here.  You can also learn more about her from the University of Minnesota Medical School.

I reached out to Dr. Krebs and she graciously responded to some of my questions about her research.  I offer her insights to you below.  This is a rare chance to hear from a physician-scientist, uncluttered from what you may find elsewhere on the Internet.  Often people ask me what where to get reliable information on health issues.  On this issue, this is as reliable as it gets.  I’ll include a couple links as well, including one to an audio interview with Dr. Krebs.  Read on.
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