Lower back pain is regarded as one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. In most cases, medical guidelines recommend acetaminophen (sold under brand names like Tylenol and Paracetamol) as a first line treatment for the condition. However, a new study by Australian researchers has found that paracetamol does not speed recovery or decrease back pain.
Paracetamol is a popular analgesic that works for various types of pain, but though it is recommended for back pain mainly because it has few side effects, there has never been any clear proof of this. Now, the large rigorous study which was published in The Lancet reports that the drug works no better than a placebo dummy pills for hastening recovery from low back aches or easing pain levels, sleep, function and quality of life.
The researchers assigned up to 1,652 people suffering from chronic pain to either receive acetaminophen up to a maximum dose of 4,000 mg per day or a placebo (a dummy pill). The study found no significant differences in the total time of recovery between the two treatment groups. The average time of recovery for the group given acetaminophen was 17 days and for the placebo group, 16 days. The focus of the research was on the specific type of back aches that most people experience mainly due to bad posture, inadequate exercise or strain. These results challenge the universal endorsement of this drug as the first choice pain killer for this condition.
The research points to the need for physicians to correctly monitor people consuming paracetamol to see if the drug actually works. If not, they need to suggest better and stronger medication to help patients remain active.
Low back ache is regarded as the number one cause of disability worldwide. The costs related to this condition are estimated to be more than $100 billion a year in the United States. The results of the study indicate that the mechanisms of back pain are likely to be different from other conditions and so more research on this is necessary.
However, while this analgesic may not work, modalities such as exercise, massage, physical therapy, TENS, and hot and cold packs are considered safe and effective to treat pain in the lower back.