Paracetamol used for Treating Low Back Pain is Not any Better than Placebo

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jul 24, 2014

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A recent research in the Lancet said that Paracetamol when used to treat lower back pain is not any better than a dummy pill like placebo. This research is the largest trial to date which suggests that drug does not improve the recovery time or provide greater pain relief compared with placebo. The study raises questions on whether paracetamol should remain a first-choice drug on most national guidelines.

paracetamol for low back painThe experts, however, caution that anyone who is considering a change of medication must first seek medical advice. There are about 26 million people suffering from lower back pain each year in the UK and it still continues to be a leading cause of disability all over the world.


Quality of Sleep

The researchers studied more than 1,650 people across different primary care centres in Australia, who had experienced back pain for over six weeks or less.
•    A third took the drug as needed
•    A third received a regular dosage of paracetamol
•    A third were given placebo for about a month

It was observed that paracetamol neither reduced the intensity of the pain nor did it bring any improvement in the quality of sleep. Scientists have also found that there was no difference in recovery time for all the three groups i.e. an average of 17 days.

The lead author of the study, Dr Christopher Williams, from the University of Sydney, said that the results suggest that one needs to reconsider the universal recommendation to provide paracetamol as a first-line treatment.

Researchers said that the mechanisms behind lower back pain may be different from those in pain that is felt in other conditions such as toothaches, headaches and post-surgery discomfort. In these cases, there is enough evidence to prove that paracetamol can provide relief. As  lot of people in the study began to recover more quickly compared with those in some previous studies, it was suggested that the advice and reassurance provided at the time of the trial is likely to be more effective compared with medication.

Article source: BBC News
Image source: Getty
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