Importance: Low back pain (LBP) is responsible for more than 2.5 million visits to US emergency departments (EDs) annually. These patients are usually treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen, opioids, or skeletal muscle relaxants, often in combination.
Objective: To compare functional outcomes and pain at 1 week and 3 months after an ED visit for acute LBP among patients randomized to a 10-day course of (1) naproxen + placebo; (2) naproxen + cyclobenzaprine; or (3) naproxen + oxycodone/acetaminophen.
Design, setting, and participants: This randomized, double-blind, 3-group study was conducted at one urban ED in the Bronx, New York City. Patients who presented with nontraumatic, nonradicular LBP of 2 weeks' duration or less were eligible for enrollment upon ED discharge if they had a score greater than 5 on the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ). The RMDQ is a 24-item questionnaire commonly used to measure LBP and related functional impairment on which 0 indicates no functional impairment and 24 indicates maximum impairment. Beginning in April 2012, a total of 2588 patients were approached for enrollment. Of the 323 deemed eligible for participation, 107 were randomized to receive placebo and 108 each to cyclobenzaprine and to oxycodone/acetaminophen. Follow-up was completed in December 2014.
Interventions: All participants were given 20 tablets of naproxen, 500 mg, to be taken twice a day. They were randomized to receive either 60 tablets of placebo; cyclobenzaprine, 5 mg; or oxycodone, 5 mg/acetaminophen, 325 mg. Participants were instructed to take 1 or 2 of these tablets every 8 hours, as needed for LBP. They also received a standardized 10-minute LBP educational session prior to discharge.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was improvement in RMDQ between ED discharge and 1 week later.
Results: Demographic characteristics were comparable among the 3 groups. At baseline, median RMDQ score in the placebo group was 20 (interquartile range [IQR],17-21), in the cyclobenzaprine group 19 (IQR,17-21), and in the oxycodone/acetaminophen group 20 (IQR,17-22). At 1-week follow-up, the mean RMDQ improvement was 9.8 in the placebo group, 10.1 in the cyclobenzaprine group, and 11.1 in the oxycodone/acetaminophen group. Between-group difference in mean RMDQ improvement for cyclobenzaprine vs placebo was 0.3 (98.3% CI, -2.6 to 3.2; P = .77), for oxycodone/acetaminophen vs placebo, 1.3 (98.3% CI, -1.5 to 4.1; P = .28), and for oxycodone/acetaminophen vs cyclobenzaprine, 0.9 (98.3% CI, -2.1 to 3.9; P = .45).
Conclusions and relevance: Among patients with acute, nontraumatic, nonradicular LBP presenting to the ED, adding cyclobenzaprine or oxycodone/acetaminophen to naproxen alone did not improve functional outcomes or pain at 1-week follow-up. These findings do not support use of these additional medications in this setting.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01587274.