UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Muscle relaxants and back pain

Keywords: low back pain, analgesia (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/23/2019 by Brian Corwell, MD (Updated: 5/26/2019)
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In patients with lower back pain, there is good evidence that muscle relaxants reduce pain as compared to placebo and that different types are equally effective. However, the high incidence of significant side effects such as dizziness and sedation limits their use. Muscle relaxants may be beneficial in an every bedtime capacity thereby limiting side effects.

If cyclobenzaprine is used during daytime hours, a lower dose schedule may work as well as a higher dose with somewhat less somnolence (5 mg three times a day vs 10 mg three times a day. In general, muscle relaxants should only be used when patients cannot tolerate NSAIDs but can tolerate the side effect profile.

We commonly add muscle relaxants to NSAIDs hoping for a larger analgesic effect. However, combination therapy does not appear to be better than monotherapy. 

Adding cyclobenzaprine to high-dose ibuprofen does not seem to provide additional pain relief in the first 48 hours in ED patients with acute myofascial strain. Among an ED population with acute non radicular low back pain, a randomized trial found that adding cyclobenzaprine/other muscle relaxants to Naproxen did not improve functional outcomes or pain at one week or 3 months compared to naproxen alone.

Take home: Consider the limited usefulness use of muscle relaxants in ED patients with back pain


 

References

Friedman et al., 2015. JAMA.