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J Emerg Med. 2014 Jul;47(1):65-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2014.02.010. Epub 2014 Apr 13.

Prednisone for emergency department low back pain: a randomized controlled trial.

Author information

1
Department of Emergency Medicine, Morristown Medical Center, Morristown, New Jersey.
2
Department of Emergency Medicine, Newton Medical Center, Newton, New Jersey.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Although oral corticosteroids are commonly given to emergency department (ED) patients with musculoskeletal low back pain (LBP), there is little evidence of benefit.

OBJECTIVE:

To determine if a short course of oral corticosteroids benefits LBP ED patients.

METHODS:

DESIGN:

Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

SETTING:

Suburban New Jersey ED with 80,000 annual visits.

PARTICIPANTS:

18-55-year-olds with moderately severe musculoskeletal LBP from a bending or twisting injury ≤ 2 days prior to presentation. Exclusion criteria were suspected nonmusculoskeletal etiology, direct trauma, motor deficits, and local occupational medicine program visits.

PROTOCOL:

At ED discharge, patients were randomized to either 50 mg prednisone daily for 5 days or identical-appearing placebo. Patients were contacted after 5 days to assess pain on a 0-3 scale (none, mild, moderate, severe) as well as functional status.

RESULTS:

The prednisone and placebo groups had similar demographics and initial and discharge ED pain scales. Of the 79 patients enrolled, 12 (15%) were lost to follow-up, leaving 32 and 35 patients in the prednisone and placebo arms, respectively. At follow-up, the two arms had similar pain on the 0-3 scale (absolute difference 0.2, 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.2, 0.6) and no statistically significant differences in resuming normal activities, returning to work, or days lost from work. More patients in the prednisone than in the placebo group sought additional medical treatment (40% vs. 18%, respectively, difference 22%, 95% CI 0, 43%).

CONCLUSION:

We detected no benefit from oral corticosteroids in our ED patients with musculoskeletal LBP.

KEYWORDS:

low back pain; musculoskeletal pain; steroids

PMID:
24739318
DOI:
10.1016/j.jemermed.2014.02.010
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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