This Common Back Pain Drug DOESN’T WORK!

By on June 8, 2015
Got back pain? Normally, doctors recommend acetaminophen, an over-the-counter drug marketed to help alleviate back pain.

New research from Australia suggests the effects are no better than placebo, however.

According to new research from the University of Sydney in Australia, people with low back pain who took acetaminophen still experienced pain and a reduced quality of life, suggesting that the drug did not help at all.

However, it did help alleviate other painful conditions, such as osteoarthritis of the knee and hip.

“There was ‘high quality’ evidence that (acetaminophen) is ineffective for reducing pain intensity and disability or improving quality of life in the short term in people with low back pain,” write researchers in the online version of the British Medical Journal. “For hip or knee osteoarthritis there was ‘high quality’ evidence that (acetaminophen) provides a significant, although not clinically important, effect on pain in the short term.”

What Researchers Discovered

The research, which appears in the British Medical Journal, reviewed 13 studied which specifically examined the effects of different drugs on low back, hip, and knee pain, including the drug acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is commonly sold in the United States under the name Tylenol.

Examining the data, researchers found that patients who took acetaminophen to treat back pain often did not report an improved quality of life. In fact, acetaminophen often failed to reduce the severity of their back pain, causing them to suffer even more.

However, when they looked at those who took it for osteoarthritis, which can cause pain in the hip and knee joints, it did help reduce pain. Unfortunately, the pain reduction only lasted for a short amount of time–and researchers describe it as being clinically “unimportant.”

Overall, acetaminophen just wasn’t good enough for back pain sufferers.

“(Acetaminophen) is ineffective in the treatment of low back pain and provides minimal short term benefit for people with osteoarthritis,” write researchers.

Health experts dispute these findings, however, arguing that although the evidence indicates that acetaminophen doesn’t alleviate pain, it may help control symptoms related to the pain–and it’s safe as well. Some even say they won’t stop recommending it to their patients, including Dr. Allyson Shrikhande.

“My experience is the Tylenol is just controlling symptoms while not fixing the problem,” says Shrikhande, a physical rehabilitation and pain specialist at New York Bone and Joint Specialists. “However, given other options it will remain the first-line treatment as oral pain medication.”

If you’re looking for a quick fix to get rid of back pain, however, don’t hold your breath, say researchers–chances are acetaminophen isn’t a viable solution. You’re better off taking supplements that have a better track record, such as willow bark, comfrey, and capsicum.

Readers: What do you do to alleviate back pain?

Safe But Inadequate: Tylenol Flunks Back Pain
Vitamins and Supplements: Low Back

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