Paracetamol ‘doesn’t work’ for lower back pain

“Paracetamol used to treat acute lower back pain is no better than a dummy pill,” BBC News reports.

A well-conducted trial casts doubts on the widespread recommendation that paracetamol is an effective treatment for lower back pain.

It reports on a randomised double-blind controlled trial of people with acute low back pain. All participants were told to remain active and avoid bed rest.

They were split into three groups and asked to take regular medication and “as required” medication, if needed. This was either paracetamol or a placebo.

The average number of days to recovery for each group was between 16 and 17 days. Sustained recovery by 12 weeks was achieved by between 83% and 85% in all groups.

The severity of acute low back pain in this group was not sufficient to cause anyone to have time off work. This means the results of this study may not be applicable to people with more severe acute low back pain.

This was a well conducted study that would appear to suggest that the advice regarding paracetamol as a first-line treatment may need re-examining.

However, as the authors themselves argue, it is too soon to start rewriting clinical guidelines for lower back pain based on this evidence alone.

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