Acetaminophen and Back Pain

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Do you suffer from back pain? About two-thirds of adults have it at some point in their lives, and it is the leading cause of disability in the world. Medical guidelines everywhere suggest taking Acetaminophen, which is sold as Tylenol, Anacin and other brands.

But now, the first large, rigorous clinical trial to test this has found that acetaminophen is no better than a placebo.

For the study in The Lancet, Australian researchers assigned 1,600 people with acute low back pain to take either acetaminophen, a placebo or a combination of both.

Scientists found no major difference in the time it took people to recover: Those on acetaminophen got better after 17 days while those who took dummy pills recovered after 16 days. There was no difference in disability, function, symptom changes, sleep or quality of life. About three-quarters of the patients were satisfied with their treatment whether they received medicine, placebos or both.

The lead author said doctors should stop recommending acetominophen as a first-line treatment. But an editorial accompanying the paper said it does work for some people so doctors should monitor its effectivness . And if it’s not working, they should switch patients to stronger medication while advising them to stay active.

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