Faculty of Pain Medicine, ANZCA

Recommendations from the Faculty of Pain Medicine, ANZCA on chronic pain, neuropathic pain and low back pain. The Faculty of Pain Medicine is a faculty of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists and is the professional organisation for specialist pain medicine physicians (Fellows) and specialist pain medicine physicians in training (trainees). The Faculty is responsible for the training, examination and specialist accreditation of specialist pain medicine physicians and for the standards of clinical practice for pain medicine in Australia and New Zealand. Formed in 1998, the Faculty is the first multidisciplinary medical academy in the world to be devoted to education and training in pain medicine.

Do not prescribe benzodiazepines for low back pain.

Date reviewed: 13 February 2018

Lifetime prevalence of low back pain in Australia is reported to be as high as 80% with one in ten experiencing significant activity limitation.

Although benzodiazepines continue to be commonly prescribed as ‘muscle relaxants’ for low back pain (LBP), there is an absolute lack of evidence of benefit for this indication. Only one RCT has been conducted on diazepam in acute LBP during the last 40 years, and it showed no additional benefit when added to NSAID therapy alone. A recent systematic review found no additional studies to support the use of benzodiazepines in treating acute or chronic back pain.

Well-described risks are associated with benzodiazepine usage, including abuse, addiction, tolerance and overdose. Accidental death from pharmaceutical benzodiazepines in Australia were highest in the 40–49 and 30–39 year age groups. The number of deaths in the older age groups also remains high.

There is no place for use of benzodiazepine for low back pain.

Supporting evidence
  • Briggs AM, Buchbinder R. Back pain: a national health priority area in Australia? Med J Aust 2009; 190(9):499-502.
  • Chou R, Huffman LH. Medications for Acute and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Review of the evidence for an American Pain Society/American College of Physicians Clinical Practice Guideline. Ann Intern Med 2007; 147(7):505-14.
  • Friedman BW, Irizarry E, Solórzano C, et al. Diazepam is no better than placebo when added to naproxen for acute low back pain. Ann Emerg Med 2017; 70(2):169-76.
  • Penington Institute. Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2017.
  • Shaheed AC, Maher CG, Williams KA, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of muscle relaxants for low back pain: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Pain 2016; 21(2):228-37.

How this list was made How this list was made

Recommendation 1-5
The Faculty of Pain Medicine (FPM), ANZCA established a working group to develop a preliminary list of pain medicine related practices that were identified, using current clinical evidence, as having possible limited benefit, no benefit or which may potentially cause harm to patients. An online survey tool was used to survey all FPM fellows and trainees inviting them to rank these recommendations and to provide any comment related to them. This engagement facilitated consensus and informed the Fellows and trainees about FPM’s involvement with the Choosing Wisely campaign.

FPM's final list of 5 Choosing Wisely recommendations reflects those that were the most broadly supported by the clinicians and which were considered to be the most relevant to community practice.

Recommendation 6
FPM Board directed that a poll of the fellowship be conducted to assess support for a sixth Choosing Wisely recommendation regarding the role of medicinal cannabis in chronic non-cancer pain treatment. The survey question was very similar to the final wording of the recommendation, and was supported by 79% of the fellows who responded (more than 25% of the active fellowship).

The final draft wording of the recommendation, explanation and list of key references was then approved by the Board and sent to Choosing Wisely for consideration by the Representative Panel. Feedback obtained from that consultation was then collated and discussed at the following Board meeting before some minor amendments were made to clarify the explanation section of the recommendation.

Recommendation 7
The ANZCA Safety and Quality Committee proposed that the college submit a statement to Choosing Wisely Australia as part of analgesic stewardship.
The committee agreed that the existing document development group (DDG) for ANZCA and FPM professional document PS41(G) Position statement on acute pain management would be well-placed to develop the Choosing Wisely recommendation. It was also agreed that an expert group should be formed comprising members with expertise in obstetric anaesthesia, paediatric anaesthesia, and paediatric pain medicine, to provide input to the Choosing Wisely recommendation.
The draft document was circulated for consultation in February 2022 with the following stakeholders: ANZCA national/regional committees, NZ national committee, FPM committees, Australian Society of Anaesthetists (ASA), New Zealand Society of Anaesthetists (NZSA), ANZCA Special Interest Groups (SIG) including Obstetric SIG and Acute Pain SIG, and Society for Paediatric Anaesthesia in New Zealand and Australia (SPANZA). The one-month consultation period finished in March 2022. After consideration of the feedback received during this period, the DDG made further amendments to the CW recommendation. The ANZCA Safety and Quality Committee approved the post consultation version and sent to Choosing Wisely for consideration by the Representative Panel. Feedback obtained from that consultation was then collated and discussed at the Board meeting before some minor amendments were made to clarify the explanation section of the recommendation.

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