For Back Pain, Acetaminophen Is No Better than Placebo

By | July 26, 2014
14534701_sLow-back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide.  Guidelines for acute low-back pain universally recommend ‘paracetamol’ or acetaminophen (Tylenol) as the first-line medical pain reliever.  Although universally recommended, recently, the highest quality evidence (systematic review) noted no evidence to support the use of paracetamol for low-back pain.  To further explore this issue, a study just published in The Lancet investigated over 1600 people with acute lower back pain.  Back pain sufferers received up to 4 weeks of regular doses of paracetamol (three times per day; equivalent to 3990 mg paracetamol per day), as-needed doses of paracetamol (taken when needed for pain relief; maximum 4000 mg paracetamol per day), or placebo.  Results found that there was no difference between treatment groups for time to recovery.  These findings suggest that regular or as-needed dosing with paracetamol does not affect recovery time compared with placebo in low-back pain, and question the universal endorsement of paracetamol for back pain.

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