Paracetamol, pills, painkillers
(representational image)david pacey/Flickr

Suffering from low back pain? Looks like popping a paracetamol tablet will be of little help.

A study reported in The Lancet puts forward solid evidence to show that paracetamol (acetaminophen) is just equal to placebo in treating acute low-back pain.

The Paracetamol for Low-Back Pain Study (PACE) included 1,652 patients with acute low-back pain. At the time of the study, participants, aged around 45, were undergoing treatments at 235 primary health care centres in Sydney, Australia. Researchers prescribed paracetamol – either a total 3,990 mg of three daily doses or up to 4,000 mg, according to the pain and a placebo for a period of one month. During the three-month follow–up of the study, researchers couldn't find any major differences between the three groups regarding the speed of recovery, pain relief, function, sleep or quality of sleep.

The paracetamol groups took a median time of 17 days to recover, while the placebo people recovered within 16 days.

"Simple analgesics such as paracetamol might not be of primary importance in the management of acute lower back pain," lead author Dr Christopher Williams from the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney in Australia, said in a news release. "The results suggest that we need to reconsider the universal recommendation to provide paracetamol as a first-line treatment for low-back pain, although understanding why paracetamol works for other pain states but not low-back pain would help direct future treatments."

Other Medications Used to Manage Back Pain

Though paracetamol has been recommended as the first- line treatment by most of the doctors, ibuprofen, codeine and muscle relaxant called diazepam are also widely used for relieving back pain.

Following are some treatments for back pain:

  • Exercise sessions meant to strengthen muscles and to correct wrong posture
  • Alexander technique that helps correct bad postures
  • Acupuncture - an ancient Chinese treatment that involves inserting thin, solid needles into acupuncture points in the skin
  • Manual therapy like manipulation, mobilisation and massage

Some Tips from NHS choices, UK that help relieve back pain

  • Making some changes in the sleeping position
  • Placing hot compression packs and cold ice packs on the area
  • Just remain cool- worrying about the condition can lead to muscle tension and more pain
  • Never confine yourself to the bed, but try to remain active
  • Overweight people should adopt healthy eating habits, exercise regularly