A new Australian review finds that muscle relaxants are not effective for relieving back pain, despite the fact that millions of Americans rely on them for relief.
There Is No Evidence That Muscle Relaxants Can Reduce Low Back Pain
A deep-dive study analyzed 31 prior studies that collectively studied over 6,500 lower back pain patients. In this study, patients had been using at least 18 different types of prescription muscle relaxants to treat lower back pain.
Studies have shown that a muscle relaxant may ease the pain temporarily, but “it is probably not enough to make a significant difference,” researcher James McAuley noted. A placebo, or sugar pill, would have no difference in reducing pain as compared to most patients.”
In addition to muscle relaxants’ ineffectiveness, they also carry a higher risk of adverse effects, noted James McAuley, a professor of health sciences at the UNSW in Sydney.
Dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, nausea, and the risk of addiction are just a few of the side effects that can result. According to McAuley, his team was shocked to discover the results since earlier research had indicated there was a reduction in pain intensity. However, our results became much less certain when we included the most recent research. A problem with the research McAuley mentioned is that the research was not done well, so it is hard to know how accurate it is.
Long-term use of muscle relaxants, for instance, was not explored in any of the studies. Consequently, the Australian team could assess the effectiveness of muscle relaxants over two time periods: during a two-week initial regimen and from three to thirteen weeks later. As for the first study, evidence for a low pain relief benefit is low; as for the second study, there is no evidence of pain intensity reduction or disability reduction.
McCauley’s takeaway: We need to better understand whether medicines can help people with low back pain by improving the way we do research.
James McAuley stated that this pain is extremely common worldwide. About 5% of the population experiences low back pain at any one time. About 80% of us experience low back pain at least once in our lifetime.
Because the cause of pain is sometimes hard to pin down, many treatments, such as opioids, NSAIDs, exercise programs, and counseling, focus more on managing the pain as opposed to curing it. McAuley said that muscle relaxants — which will be prescribed for 30 million Americans in 2020 – are among the medications that fall under that category.
James explained that due to the fact that muscle relaxants do not provide pain relief or cure, there are clear needs for the development and testing of new effective and cost-effective treatments for individuals with lower back pain.
According to McAuley, a campaign is underway to “de-medicalize” the treatment of low back pain by embracing techniques that consider alternatives to medication or surgery.
James added that he thinks it’s important to educate and advise people who have recently had low back pain. He added that he advised them to take comfort in the knowledge that the pain in their back is not likely to last long whether they take medication or not. This research paper appeared in BMJ on July 7 that he and his colleagues conducted.
Dr. Daniel Park stated that there are so many causes of back pain. He is an orthopedics associate professor at Oakland University’s School of Medicine in Rochester, Michigan. According to Park, a spine surgeon at Beaumont Hospital-Royal Oak, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Park says that muscle relaxants have a place in helping to manage severe pain; they might be useful for treating patients who experience severe pain for a short period of time.
For example, he suggests that those suffering from an injury to the muscles or those with a herniated disc might benefit from short-term muscle relaxant treatment.
But what about patients who have back pain due to a degenerative disc? In my opinion, not so much.
The therapy is unlikely to offer long-term pain relief; Park said, no matter where the problem originates.
Park stated that he believes that core strengthening and physical therapy will be more effective in the long run, emphasizing that it is equally important to distinguish the specific cause, minimize the risk of chronic problems, and minimize discomfort.