Study finds acetaminophen doesn’t help lower back pain

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A common way to treat back pain may not give you any relief at all.

The first line pain reliever that most doctors recommend is acetaminophen, or Tylenol. It’s an effective pain medication and has fewer potentially serious side effects than other pain relievers.

But does it really work for back pain?

No one’s really tested it in a critical way until now. A study was done in Australia, where the drug is called paracetamol, and the results were reported in the British journal “The Lancet.”

More than 1,650 patients who had low back pain were randomly assigned into three groups. One-third of them received the standard regular doses of acetaminophen every six to eight hours, another group had acetaminophen available as needed. The third group received placebo. No one knew what they were taking.

Eighty-five percent of the patients in all three groups recovered. The median time it took to reach recovery was 17 days for those on regular dose acetaminophen, 17 days for those taking it “as needed,” and 16 days for those who received placebo.

In other words, there was no difference. The medicine did nothing.

This study was not done in an attempt to discredit the drug; in fact, it was partially sponsored by the manufacturer. And it doesn’t mean acetaminophen is worthless. It’s a good pain reliever and fever reducer, but it’s not anti-inflammatory, and inflammation often plays a role in low back pain.

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