Parenteral corticosteroids for Emergency Department patients with non-radicular low back pain

Benjamin W. Friedman, Lynne Holden, David Esses, Polly E. Bijur, Hong K. Choi, Clemecia Solorzano, Joseph Paternoster, E. John Gallagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations


Although not recommended for low back pain, the efficacy of systemic corticosteroids has never been evaluated in a general low back pain population. To test the efficacy of systemic corticosteroids for Emergency Department (ED) patients with low back pain, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of long-acting methylprednisolone was conducted with follow-up assessment 1 month after ED discharge. Patients with non-traumatic low back pain were included if their straight leg raise test was negative. The primary outcome was a comparison of the change in a numerical rating scale (NRS) 1 month after discharge. Of 87 subjects randomized, 86 were successfully followed to the 1-month endpoint. The change in NRS between discharge and 1 month differed between the two groups by 0.6 (95% confidence interval -1.0 to 2.2), a clinically and statistically insignificant difference. Disability, medication use, and healthcare resources utilized were comparable in both groups. Corticosteroids do not seem to benefit patients with acute non-radicular low back pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-370
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2006



  • Low back pain
  • emergency department
  • methylprednisolone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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