Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Muscle relaxants for non-specific low back pain

PainSci » bibliography » van Tulder et al 2003
Tags: treatment, medications, back pain, self-treatment, pain problems, spine

Four articles on PainSci cite van Tulder 2003: 1. The Complete Guide to Low Back Pain2. The Complete Guide to Chronic Tension Headaches3. The Complete Guide to Neck Pain & Cricks4. Complete Guide to Frozen Shoulder

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: The use of muscle relaxants in the management of non-specific low back pain is controversial. It is not clear if they are effective, and concerns have been raised about the potential adverse effects involved.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this review was to determine if muscle relaxants are effective in the treatment of non-specific low back pain.

SEARCH STRATEGY: A computer-assisted search of the Cochrane Library (Issue 2, 2002), MEDLINE (1966 up to October 2001) and EMBASE (1988 up to October 2001) was carried out. These databases were searched using the algorithm recommended by the Cochrane Back Review Group. References cited in the identified articles and other relevant literature were screened.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised and/or double-blinded controlled trials, involving patients diagnosed with non-specific low back pain, treated with muscle relaxants as monotherapy or in combination with other therapeutic modalities, were included for review.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two reviewers independently carried out the methodological quality assessment and data extraction of the trials. The analysis comprised not only a quantitative analysis (statistical pooling) but also a qualitative analysis ("best evidence synthesis"). This involved the appraisal of the strength of evidence for various conclusions using a rating system based on the quality and outcomes of the studies included. Evidence was classified as "strong", "moderate", "limited", "conflicting" or "no" evidence.

MAIN RESULTS: Thirty trials met the inclusion criteria. Twenty-three trials (77%) were of high quality, 24 trials (80%) were on acute low back pain. Four trials studied benzodiazepines, 11 non-benzodiazepines and two antispasticity muscle relaxants in comparison with placebo. Results showed that there is strong evidence that any of these muscle relaxants are more effective than placebo for patients with acute LBP on short-term pain relief. The pooled RR for non-benzodiazepines versus placebo after two to four days was 0.80 [95% CI; 0.71 to 0.89] for pain relief and 0.49 [95% CI; 0.25 to 0.95] for global efficacy. Adverse events, however, with a relative risk of 1.50 [95% CI; 1.14 to 1.98] were significantly more prevalent in patients receiving muscle relaxants and especially the central nervous system adverse effects (RR 2.04; 95% CI; 1.23 to 3.37). The various muscle relaxants were found to be similar in performance.

REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: Muscle relaxants are effective in the management of non-specific low back pain, but the adverse effects require that they be used with caution. Trials are needed that evaluate if muscle relaxants are more effective than analgesics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:

PainSci Member Login » Submit your email to unlock member content. If you can’t remember/access your registration email, please contact me. ~ Paul Ingraham, PainSci Publisher