Cyclobenzaprine utilization for musculoskeletal back pain, analysis of 2007-2019 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey Data

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The American journal of emergency medicine






Cyclobenzaprine; Emergency department; Lower back pain; Musculoskeletal back pain; National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS)


BACKGROUND: With musculoskeletal back pain being one of the most common presentations in the emergency department, evidence-based management strategies are needed to address such complaints. Along with other medications, cyclobenzaprine is a muscle relaxant commonly prescribed for patients complaining of musculoskeletal pain, in particular, pain associated with muscle spasms. However, with recent literature questioning its efficacy, the role of cyclobenzaprine use in patients with musculoskeletal back pain remains unclear. OBJECTIVES: The objective of the study is to investigate trends of cyclobenzaprine utilization among patients presenting to the emergency department (ED) in the United States. METHODS: This is a retrospective cohort review of data obtained from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) between 2007 and 2019. We analyzed ED visits of patients 18 years and older. Visits during which cyclobenzaprine was administered in the ED or prescribed at discharge were identified. Trends were described using a time series analysis of patients' visits who received administration and prescriptions of cyclobenzaprine. RESULTS: Between 2007 and 2019, we identified an estimated 1.35 billion ED visits, 57.2% (772.6 million) were female. From that sample, 2.4% (32.7 million) of all visits received cyclobenzaprine prescription in the ED only, and 0.5% (6.6 million) of total visits were both given the drug in the ED and were prescribed the drug at discharge). Overall trend analysis shows a slight decrease in annual percentages of cyclobenzaprine administration and prescriptions during the study period. Visits of certain subgroups: 26-44 years, white showed relatively higher percentages of administration and prescription of cyclobenzaprine. CONCLUSIONS: Although there was a slight decrease, our study still shows significant cyclobenzaprine utilization in the ED, despite conflicting evidence demonstrating efficacy for patients with musculoskeletal complaints and the concern for adverse effects. Additional studies are needed to examine its overall effectiveness and risk-benefit analysis in treating patients with such conditions.


Emergency Medicine