FRIDAY, July 9, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Although tens of millions of Americans turn to muscle relaxants for lower back pain relief, a new Australian review finds little evidence that such drugs actually work.
That's the conclusion of a deep-dive into 31 prior investigations, which collectively enlisted more than 6,500 lower back pain patients. Enrolled patients had been treating lower back pain with a wide range of 18 different prescription muscle relaxants.
But while the studies suggested that muscle relaxants might ease pain in the short term, "on average, the effect is probably too small to be important," said study author James McAuley. "And most patients wouldn't be able to feel any difference in their pain compared to taking a placebo, or sugar pill."
Another concern: Beyond their ineffectiveness, "there is also an increased risk of side effects," cautioned McAuley, director of the Centre for Pain IMPACT with the University of New South Wales' School of Health Sciences in Sydney.
McAuley said his team was surprised by the findings, "as earlier research suggested that muscle relaxants did reduce pain intensity. But when we included all of the most up-to-date research the results became much less certain."
One problem is that much of the research "wasn't done very well, which means that we can't be very certain in the results," McAuley said.
For example, none of the studies explored long-term muscle relaxant use. That means the Australian team could only assess muscle relaxant effectiveness during two time frames: throughout an initial two-week regimen and between 3 to 13 weeks. In the first instance, t...