Musculoskeletal (MSK) injuries are a major contributing factor for chronic pain. To date, little is known how pain medication use in MSK injuries has changed over time. We assessed pain medication prescription for MSK injuries in a representative sample of Swiss workers between 2008 and 2018.
Retrospective analysis of the Swiss Accident Insurance Fund (Suva) data. We calculated annual pain medication use, treatment days, and costs associated with pain medication use in minor and major MSK injuries.
In total, 1,921,382 cases with MSK injuries with ≥ 1 pain medication were analyzed. Whereas MSK injuries with ≥ 1 pain medication increased by 9.4%, we observed a larger increase in metamizole (+ 254%), strong opioids (+ 88.4%), coxibs (+ 85.8%), and paracetamol (+ 28.1%). Strong opioids were increasingly used in minor (+ 91.4%) and major (+ 88.3%) injuries. The increase in metamizole (+ 390.6%) and coxibs (+ 115.5%) was larger in minor injuries compared to major injuries (+ 238.7% and + 80.6%, respectively). Medical expenses decreased in all medications except for strong opioids where a substantial increase was observed (+ 192.4% in minor; + 34% in major injuries).
We observed a disproportionate increase in metamizole, strong opioids, coxibs, and paracetamol prescriptions even in minor MSK injuries between 2008 and 2018. Whereas treatment costs decreased for all pain medications, there was a substantial increase in strong opioids. A more liberal prescription practice of opioids conflict with current evidence-based practice recommendations and need to be addressed by physicians and policy makers.