More Isn’t Better With Acute Low Back Pain Treatment

Adding cyclobenzaprine or oxycodone/acetaminophen to naproxen for the treatment of acute low back pain does nothing more than increase adverse effects.

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Consider treating patients with acute low back pain with naproxen only, as adding cyclobenzaprine or oxycodone/acetaminophen to scheduled naproxen increases adverse effects and does not improve functional assessment at seven days or three months.

Strength of Recommendation
B: Based on a high-quality, randomized controlled trial (RCT).1

A 46-year-old man presents to the emergency department (ED) with low back pain (LBP) after helping a friend move a couch three days ago. He denies any direct trauma to his back and describes the pain as a “spasm” in his lumbar spinal region with no radicular symptoms. The pain worsens with prolonged standing and position changes. He has tried acetaminophen with no benefit. You diagnose a lumbar muscular strain. What medications should you prescribe to help relieve his LBP and improve his overall function?

Acute LBP prompts nearly 2.7 million ED visits in the United States each year.2 It leads to persistent subjective impairment and con­tinued analgesic use at seven days (impairment, 70%; analgesic use, 69%) and three months (48% and 46%, respectively) after ED discharge.3 Systematic reviews show that monotherapy with NSAIDs or muscle relaxants is more effective than placebo for pain relief.4,5 A secondary analysis of patients (N = 715) from a prospective cohort study showed worse functioning at six months in those who were prescribed opiates for LBP than in those who were not.6

Monotherapy or combination therapy for LBP?
Because medications used for LBP have different mechanisms of action, clinicians frequently combine them in an attempt to improve symptoms and function.2 Current evidence on combination therapy shows mixed results. A large RCT (N = 867) showed that the combination of cyclobenzaprine and ibuprofen led to lower subjective pain intensity, but it did not result in self-reported pain improvement, compared to cyclobenz­a­prine alone. However, a small RCT (N = 40) demonstrated im­­proved LBP and spasm with naprozen plus cyclobenzaprine, compared to naproxen alone.7,8

This study sought to determine the benefit of treating acute LBP with cyclobenzaprine or oxycodone/acetaminophen in combination with an NSAID, compared to treatment with an NSAID alone.

Continue for the study summary >>

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