New Study Finds Tylenol Doesn’t Help Lower Back Pain

New Study Finds Tylenol Doesn’t Help Lower Back Pain

Prescription MedicineBetween 80% to 90% of people in the U.S. suffer from back pain, according to the American Chiropractic Association, many of whom are told to take acetaminophen, which is more commonly known as Tylenol. So popular is this pain reliever that medical guidelines across the world recommend it as a first-line treatment. 

However, a new trial has recently found that acetaminophen doesn’t work any better than a placebo. “Our result illustrates the problems in relying on that indirect evidence when setting guidelines,” said George Institute for Global Health’s Christopher M. Williams, the study’s leading author.

The study randomly assorted 1,643 people who had acute lower back pain into three different groups. Dr. Williams and his colleagues gave the first group two boxes — a “regular” one with 500-milligram acetaminophen tablets, and another that was an “as-needed” box, which also had acetaminophen. The second group’s as-needed box had a placebo, and each of the third group’s boxes had placebos. 

The researchers told the participants to take six tablets every day from the regular box, and to take only two tablets from the as-needed box each day. At the end of the three month study, the researchers failed to find any difference amongst the three groups in terms of recovery time, pain, disability, function, symptom changes, sleep, or even quality of life. 

About 75% of participants were satisfied with the treatment they received, regardless of whether they received acetaminophen, placebos, or both.  Although medical professionals are acknowledging the study, they’re not going to stop prescribing acetaminophen any time soon. 

“While this is a fascinating study, it is only one study and shouldn’t change clinical behavior,” said Dr. Houman Danesh, the director of Integrative Pain Management at The Mount Sinai Hospital.

Because acetaminophen can effectively help relieve toothaches and post-surgery pains, the authors of the study say that further research is needed to understand why it is that the drug didn’t help patients’ lower back pain.

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