Acetaminophen Not Effective for Low Back Pain
Written by Brooke Shaw   
Thursday, October 16, 2014 02:21 PM

A study published online in The Lancet (2014 Jul 23) found that acetaminophen was no more effective than placebo in relieving the symptoms of chronic low back pain when administered in either regular or as-needed dosing schedules.

The results actually contradicted the authors’ hypothesis before initiating the project. The new research was designed to follow up on an earlier study, also published in The Lancet (2007;370:1638-1643), that demonstrated that adding other treatments (manipulation and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to the recommended guidelines in Australia of advice, reassurance and regular acetaminophen did not speed recovery or improve low back pain symptoms.  

“Because patients in the study recovered faster than expected overall, we hypothesized that taking [acetaminophen] regularly was helping with the patients’ recovery,” the study’s lead author,“This assumption was also based on previous questioning of patients who said they typically only take [acetaminophen] ‘as needed.’ In the current study, though, we didn’t find any evidence to support the use of [acetaminophen], no matter how patients took it.”

“This study certainly casts some doubts on the common practice of using acetaminophen as the first-line agent for low back pain.