• comfrey;
  • methyl nicotinate;
  • acute back pain;
  • RCT

This randomised, multicentre, double-blind, three-arm, placebo-controlled trial compared a topical combination of 35% comfrey root extract plus 1.2% methyl nicotinate versus a single preparation of methyl nicotinate or placebo cream for relief of acute upper or low back pain. 379 patients were randomly assigned to three groups (combination, n = 163; methyl nicotinate, n = 164; placebo, n = 52). They applied a 12 cm layer of cream three times daily for 5 days. The primary efficacy variable was the area under the curve (AUC) of the visual analogue scale (VAS) on active standardised movement values at visits 1 to 4. Secondary measures included back pain at rest, pressure algometry, consumption of analgesic medication, functional impairment measured with Oswestry Disability Index, and global assessment of response. The AUC of the VAS on active standardised movement was markedly smaller in the combination treatment group than in the methyl nicotinate and in the placebo group (ANOVA: p < 0.0001). The combination demonstrated superiority to the two other treatment arms, while methyl nicotinate displayed a considerable effect as well. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.