Harvard Women's Health Watch

Acetaminophen may not help low back pain

The first advice you are likely to get if you have low back pain is "take a Tylenol." However a study published July 24, 2014, online by the journal Lancet indicates that you might do just as well without Tylenol, Panadol, or any of the other pain relievers containing acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen has long been recommended as first-line treatment for low back pain, but there wasn't much research to indicate how well it worked

Physicians in Sydney, Australia, decided to see whether acetaminophen actually relieved low back pain. They recruited 1,643 people with low back pain and divided them into three groups. All the participants were given two boxes of medication—one with pills for regular use, and a second with pills for additional pain relief. One group got acetaminophen in the first box and placebo pills in the second. Another got placebos in the first box and acetaminophen in the second. The third got two boxes of placebos. All were told to take six pills a day from the first box and as many as eight if needed from the second. They were advised to stay active and told they were likely to recover fully.

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