Does Paracetamol Provide Relief For Back Pain? Latest Research Says NO!

 

 

Does Paracetamol Provide Relief For Back Pain? Latest Research Says NO!

 

ParacetamolIf you have ever suffered with a sore back, you will know that you will do almost anything to get relief for back pain. And that is fully understandable. Back pain can be a nagging annoyance at best, but it can also become debilitating very quickly.

So it's not surprising that most people turn to pain medication as their first line of treatment for back pain. The most widely used over-the-counter medicine for back pain in the world is paracetamol. But just how effective is it?

 

Well, it doesn't work at all according to a study published in highly regarded scientific journal The BMJ (British Medical Journal) in March 2015.  BMJ 2015;350:h1225

'Paracetamol is ineffective in the treatment of low back pain and provides minimal short term benefit for people with osteoarthritis. These results support the reconsideration of recommendations to use paracetamol for patients with low back pain and osteoarthritis of the hip or knee in clinical practice guidelines.'

And,

'evidence suggests that paracetamol is ineffective in reducing pain and disability or improving quality of life in patients with low back pain.'

You can read the full article here.

 

So if you have been taking paracetamol to get relief for back pain, then unfortunately it seems that it does not help. This is quite concerning as it is often recommended as the first treatment for back pain. It is even more troubling when you consider the prevalence of back pain, which is widely acknowledged as a leading cause of disability worldwide. The study also found that taking paracetamol has negligible benefits for knee and hip osteoarthritis.

 

But it gets even worse! The BMJ study also found that:

'Patients taking paracetamol are nearly four times more likely to have abnormal results on liver function tests compared with those taking oral placebo'.

 

That is, taking paracetamol quadruples your risk of developing abnormal liver function, or put bluntly, it poisons your liver!

Not only does taking paracetamol not have any benefit for your back pain, it can actually be very harmful. So there really is no point taking it. According to this study, it simply does not help and may actually be harmful.

 

Why Taking Any Pain Medication Is Not The Best Idea Anyway.

In fact the whole idea of taking painkillers does not make sense when you really think about it. Sure, there are times when you need to get relief for back pain. Sometimes you just need a break, particularly when the pain becomes unbearable, and the right meds are certainly effective at bringing some relief.

But it is important to understand that the pain is not the problem. It is just a signal from your body that something is wrong. You can think of it as being like a fire alarm going off, letting you know that there is a fire somewhere. When you take painkillers, it is essentially the same as turning off the alarm. But the fire is still burning!!

Pain is also there to let you know what you can and can't do. If you move a certain way, and it hurts, that is your body saying 'Don't do that, you are going to make it worse.' So by taking painkillers (ones that work, not like paracetamol!) you are effectively numbing your body so you can't feel that warning alarm.

Sure, you might be able to do more things and move easier, but you can also be doing more damage. This is a really important thing to be aware of! By numbing the pain you could be setting yourself up for more problems. So please be extra careful how you are moving about and doing things if you have had to rely on medication to ease back pain. The last thing you want to do is make it worse, so really watch yourself.

 

Of course the best thing is to get to the underlying issue that is causing the pain. Once you fix the problem, you don't get the pain!  Check out this information on the real underlying cause of the majority of back pain.

If you have ongoing back pain, it is strongly advised that you seek professional advice. Just remember that taking paracetamol is not going to help. In fact, it could be harming you. You simply need to address the root cause to get lasting relief for back pain.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please support us and share so we can help more people! Thankyou.

 

 

10 Comments

  1. Hi Brad great site. Its made me think differently about any pain in general not just back pain. How many people are just switching that alarm off using painkillers and making the problem worse. My wife suffers from chronic back pain and often uses pills I will be passing on your advice for sure.

    Steff

    • Hi Steff,

      Suffering with pain can obviously be very unpleasant, but that is the way our body gets our attention! Imagine if you could not feel pain (and there are several medical conditions that do exactly that!), your body would suffer all sorts of injuries simply because you could not feel the pain alarm, and respong accordingly. For example, placing your hand on a hot stove.

      So even though pain is, literally, a pain, it is extremely important for our survival and to stay healthy.

      All the best,
      Dr Brad

  2. This is a very informative page. I didn’t know about that medication and will steer clear.
    I’m 57 years old with mild back pain. Most of my pain is in my knees. I believe 50 and above is your target audience.

    When I clicked “this information” I found what I was looking for as the best treatment for pain, exercise, and that page is right on.
    Overall this is a very good page on a great site.

    Kirk

    • Hi Kirk,

      Thanks for the feedback. You are right, we tend to get more aches and pains as we get older, usually because the problems have been there for a longer time than when we were young.

      I always encourage people to start investing in their health and wellbeing as soon as possible, it is much easier to maintain good health and a strong spine than it is to fix one when it is broken.

      Dr Brad

  3. Hi Brad,
    You’re right, back pain can be a debilitating condition, and the only way to get rid of back pain is to to get the root of the problem. Often time, back pain occurs while working, So I think the first thing that needs to address is the workplace, is everything set up in an ergonomic way to minimize the risks?

    Would you use alternative medicine instead of medication to help get rid of back pain?

    • Hi Sonia,

      Yes I would usually turn to alternative medicine before I take conventional medication. I have found using a natural anti-inflammatory like ice, turmeric or ginger is very effective, and have absolutely no side effects. Arnica is also very good.

      But you need to be careful even with alternative medicine, as it often come from the same mindset as conventional medication. That is ‘oh, if you have got this, then you need to take that.’
      This can be very different to accepting that symptoms such as back pain are the result of dysfunction, and actually restoring the body to normal function .

      All the best,
      Dr Brad

  4. I really enjoyed your post, it was thought provoking!!!! Personally, I have never been a fan of paracetamol as it seems people take them like sweets, which is not good in my book!!

    • Hi Campbell,

      Many people are dependent on medication without really understanding the potential long-term implications. Sometimes we do need a bit of help to get us through a tough time, but long term it only causes more problems than it fixes. Correcting the underlying cause is the only way to get actual results.

      Dr Brad

  5. Hey Brad,

    I always felt that the best way to treat lower back pain is by actually working out your lower back.I’m not surprised to see that Paracetamol can cause liver damage as most pain killers seem to. Another good thing is accupuncture. It did wonders for me on my shoulder so i’d give it a try if I had lower back issues. I can’t wait to navigate your whole site

    • You are absolutely right. But you need to be sure that you are exercising your back the right way. Some activities can actually be harmful, particularly if your spine is already unstable as a result of abnormal movement patterns that may have developed over time.

      Dr Brad

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