Next time you’re thinking about popping a Zanaflex or a Flexeril to relieve your back pain, you might want to reconsider. According to a new study, these types of muscle relaxants and other non-benzodiazepines drugs are largely ineffective for treating lower back pain or LBP.
A recently published research article in the medical trade journal, The BMJ, arrived at this conclusion based on 49 clinical trials. Of those, 31 were qualitatively analyzed and sampled a total of 6505 participants.
Whether your lower back pain is a souvenir from a skiing vacation or the result of certain diseases, the condition is often accompanied by excruciatingly painful symptoms. As such, many people see medication as the most effective remedy.
However, international clinical practice guidelines aren’t unanimous on the use of muscle relaxants to treat lower back pain. While the US guideline recommends such drugs, its UK equivalent doesn’t make a recommendation, and the Belgian guideline discourages such practices altogether.
The aforementioned analysis conducted by Australian researchers shows that neither pain intensity nor disability was significantly improved by the use of these drugs two weeks or less into the treatment.
Their effectiveness was rated on a 0–100 point scale and received a mere 8 points. The analysis included drugs like:
What’s more, the study found that the clinical use of such medication is not justified in terms of safety. All participants had an increased risk of the common side effects, including fatigue, weakness, and constipation.
In any case, these results suggest that there are no grounds for your GP to prescribe you a non-benzodiazepine muscle relaxant next time you complain of back pain.
Instead, physical therapy or simple adjustments like using a better mattress topper might be better and, perhaps more importantly, healthier long-term solutions.