Acetaminophen Ineffective for Treating Back Pain

Paracetamol (acetaminophen) is a common medication recommended by doctors for back pain. However, recent research suggests that, while the drug can help with headaches and aches and pains associated with colds, it may not be all that effective for backaches. There’s also concern from some medical professionals about the recommended dosage of acetaminophen (up to 4,000mg a day) since part of the drug is converted into a toxic byproduct that affects the liver.

Extensive Study Shows Little Difference When Placebos Use

An extensive University of Sydney study evaluated the use of paracetamol for patients experiencing lower back pain and osteoarthritis affecting hips and knees. The study, a compilation of various trials involving more than 3,000 patients, found that paracetamol:

  • Had no noticeable effect on lower back pain
  • Failed to reduce disability related to back pain or osteoarthritis
  • Did nothing substantial to improve patients’ overall quality of life

Health Concerns Associated with Paracetamol

Researchers connected with the study noted an increase in abnormal results of liver function tests in some patients tacking paracetamol rather than the placebo. While the study didn’t focus on long-term effects of paracetamol use, it does raise concerns over how paracetamol functions in patients using the drug to manage persistent back pain or osteoarthritis.

What It Means for Patients

What do these findings concerning paracetamol mean for patients? For starters, researchers suggest that patients and their doctors consider other pain management medications. Research like this, especially since it involves a commonly recommended drug, can also serve as an incentive for patients with some degree of back pain or osteoarthritis to explore a wider range of treatment options, including:

  • Physical therapy (or patient-specific exercises)
  • Weight loss (for patients with weight issues possibly aggravating back pain)
  • Non-drug treatments (i.e., the application of heat and cold, modifying daily activities)

For those with severe or chronic back pain that makes activities of daily living difficult to complete, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a spinal specialist or surgeon. The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration is a trusted Santa Monica spine surgery center with an advanced diagnostic and surgical team that can help you pinpoint your pain, and offer you a wide range of treatment options. Call 310-828-7757 to request your in-person consultation today.