A recent high quality study has demonstrated that paracetamol is no better than a placebo in treating acute episodes of low back pain. Not surprising to many sufferers of low back pain, but, this partly contradicts the standard guidelines for the treatment of acute low back pain in use by GPs. Despite this strong evidence it is considered too early to start rewriting guidelines as further research is needed.
Medical protocols are based upon the best available evidence. However, the best available evidence is not necessarily of the best quality. This can often lead to much controversy and confusion. So what was the evidence supporting the use of paracetamol in the first place? Well apparently paracetamol had been previously demonstrated as effective in managing other painful conditions such as post-operative pain. So, it was presumed to be effective with low back pain too.
It should be noted that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen work by a different mechanism (compared to paracetamol) and are still considered to be an effective first line treatment for low back pain. However, NSAIDs can cause severe stomach irritation and should not be taken with certain medications. If you are in any doubt about the medication you are taking you should consult with your GP or pharmacist.
Exercise and physical therapy such as osteopathy or physiotherapy can also play a significant role in the treatment of low back pain.
For further information about paracetamol and low back pain follow the NHS link below.
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