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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 11 August, 2020

Suffer from lower back pain? Paracetamol might not be effective in relieving symptoms

A study has found the drug to be no more effective than a placebo in treating the condition.

Image: lower back pain via Shutterstock

THE PRACTICE OF using paracetamol to treat lower back pain has been called into question after a study found it was no more effective than a placebo.

No difference was found in terms of pain levels, function, sleep, quality of life, or speed of recovery from an acute episode between patients using the drug and another group using a placebo.

The study, published in The Lancet, consisted of over 1600 patients in Australia being  randomly assigned into three groups – one received three doses of paracetamol per day (3990mg), one who could take the drug as needed (4000mg), and one who was assigned a placebo.

Researchers found no difference in recovery times between the groups – the placebo group actually recovered one day quicker on average.

The findings led to lead author Dr Christopher Williams, from the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney, to suggest that analgesics “might not be of primary importance in the management of acute lower back pain”, and suggested that further research should be pursued into whether ‘advice and reassurance’ would be more effective

“The results suggest we need to reconsider the universal recommendation to provide paracetamol as a first-line treatment for low-back pain,” Williams said, “although understanding why paracetamol works for other pain states but not low-back pain would help direct future treatments.

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Other professionals in the field were quick to warn against this single study, while it was of high-quality with clear results, from prompting doctors to alter treatment guidelines, and said that other analgesics could result in more favourable results.

A 2012 study in Ireland found that as many as 250,000 people in Ireland suffering from nerve-related back pain do not seek medical assistance for their condition because they do not believe it is “serious enough” to warrant treatment.

Read: Pharmacists want migraine medicine taken off prescription >

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Nicky Ryan

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