Does Tylenol (Paracetamol) Help Acute Low Back Pain?
Do you take Tylenol or Parcetamol for your acute back pain?
Do you know if Tylenol or Paracetamol actually helps your acute back pain?
Did you know that there is no research evidence that shows that Tylenol actually helps your long-term recovery from acute back pain?
Lack of evidence was the prime reason why researchers decided to find out if a “universally recommended, first line analgesic for low back pain, appearing in most clinical practice guidelines worldwide” [1,2] was sound.
No research even compared Paracetomol (Tylenol) with placebo or taking Tylenol on a “as neeeded” basis.
Placebo is when you get a pill or something else that you think will make you better .There is nothing in the pill to actually help you. You can get better just by thinking it will help you. Placebo can even be as little as someone telling you they will get you better, or someone simply putting their hands on you. The placebo effect can be quite strong.
A research study was done to determine if taking Paracetomol or Tylenol taken regularly would help recovery time compared to placebo. This large randomized controlled trail checked to see if short-term pain, disability, function, sleep and quality of life can change by taking Paracetomol.
What The Research Found
Researchers took 1652 people and divided them equally between three groups. The first group received Tylenol or Paracetamol on a “regular basis”. The second group received Tyelnol on a “as-needed” basis. The third group got a sugar pill otherwise known as a placebo.
Here are the results after 12 weeks in the study.
- 85% of the regular group recovered from their low back pain taking approximately 3500 mg/day of Paracetamol.
- 83% of the “as-needed” group recovered from their low back pain taking approximately 1000 mg/day of Paracetomol.
- 84% of the placebo group recovered from their low back pain taking no Tylenol or Paracetamol.
- All three groups recovered in the same time period.
What Have We Learned
The research showed that taking Paracetamol or Tylenol has no effect on disability, your functioning during the day, sleep or quality of life. Paracetamol or Tylenol does help with pain relief but only temporarily, like a mask and does not help with your long-term recovery.
A Cochrane review also concluded that Paracetomol or Tyelenol were equal to anti-inflammatories ( NSAIDS ). This means you shouldn’t take Paracetamol or anti-inflammatories for acute low back pain, thinking it will help you recover.
It may however be helpful just to get you through the night letting you get some sleep over no sleep. It also might help take the edge off the pain enough to allow you to concentrate to do your work.
However it means that the clinical guidelines used by doctors are wrong.
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- Chou R, Qaseem A, Snow V, et al, and the Clinical Efficacy Assessment Subcommittee of the American College of Physicians, and the American College of Physicians, and the American Pain Society Low Back Pain Guidelines Panel. Diagnosis and treatment of low back pain: a joint clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society. Ann Intern Med 2007; 147: 478–91.
- Koes BW, van Tulder M, Lin C-WC et al. An updated overview of clinical guidelines for the management of non-specific low back pain in primary care. Eur Spine J 2010; 19: 2075–94.
- Williams CM, Maher CG, Latimer J et al., Efficacy of paracetamol for acute low-back pain: a double-blind, randomized controlled trial The Lancet 2014; 384(9954): 1586-1596. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60805-9
- Roelofs PD, Deyo RA, Koes BW et al. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for low back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008; 1: CD000396.
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