Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
Review
, 2003 (2), CD004252

Muscle Relaxants for Non-Specific Low Back Pain

Affiliations
Review

Muscle Relaxants for Non-Specific Low Back Pain

M W van Tulder et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.

Abstract

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.

Conflict of interest statement

One of the authors (Lex Bouter) is co‐ordinating editor of the Cochrane Back Review Group. Editors are required to conduct at least one Cochrane review. This requirement ensures that editors are aware of the processes and commitment needed to conduct reviews. None of the editors are first authors. This involvement does not seem to be a source of conflict of interest in the Back Review Group. Any editor who is a author is excluded from editorial decisions on the review in which they are contributors.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Summary of risks of bias
Analysis 1.1
Analysis 1.1
Comparison 1 Benzodiazepines versus placebo for chronic low back pain, Outcome 1 Pain (dichotomous).
Analysis 1.2
Analysis 1.2
Comparison 1 Benzodiazepines versus placebo for chronic low back pain, Outcome 2 Global efficacy (dichotomous, assessed by the patient).
Analysis 2.1
Analysis 2.1
Comparison 2 Non‐benzodiazapines versus placebo for acute low back pain, Outcome 1 Pain (dichotomous).
Analysis 2.2
Analysis 2.2
Comparison 2 Non‐benzodiazapines versus placebo for acute low back pain, Outcome 2 Muscle spasm.
Analysis 2.3
Analysis 2.3
Comparison 2 Non‐benzodiazapines versus placebo for acute low back pain, Outcome 3 Physical outcomes (e.g. limitation of motion).
Analysis 2.4
Analysis 2.4
Comparison 2 Non‐benzodiazapines versus placebo for acute low back pain, Outcome 4 Global efficacy (assessed by the patient).
Analysis 2.5
Analysis 2.5
Comparison 2 Non‐benzodiazapines versus placebo for acute low back pain, Outcome 5 Adverse events.
Analysis 3.1
Analysis 3.1
Comparison 3 Non‐benzodiazepines versus placebo for chronic low back pain, Outcome 1 Adverse Events.
Analysis 4.1
Analysis 4.1
Comparison 4 Non‐benzodiazepines + analgesics/NSAIDs versus placebo + analgesics/NSAIDs for acute low back pain, Outcome 1 Pain (dichotomous).
Analysis 4.2
Analysis 4.2
Comparison 4 Non‐benzodiazepines + analgesics/NSAIDs versus placebo + analgesics/NSAIDs for acute low back pain, Outcome 2 Global efficacy (assessed by the patient).
Analysis 4.3
Analysis 4.3
Comparison 4 Non‐benzodiazepines + analgesics/NSAIDs versus placebo + analgesics/NSAIDs for acute low back pain, Outcome 3 Adverse events.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 26 articles

See all "Cited by" articles

Substances

Feedback