The most common pain reliever for back pain, paracetamol, does not work any better than a placebo, according to a new study published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet.
Guidelines around the world recommend that doctors treat back pain with paracetamol, but the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney conducted a trial after being unable to find good scientific evidence that paracetamol was effective. Their trial involved 1,600 people who had recently been diagnosed with acute back pain. One group received a placebo, another was told to take paracetamol as needed and a third received regular extended-release paracetamol three times a day.
“Surprisingly we found that it didn’t really matter whether you gave people a placebo, paracetamol or time-contingent regular paracetamol, there was no difference in any of the outcomes,” said Professor Chris Maher who led the study.
“It didn’t speed time to recovery; it didn’t improve their pain; it didn’t improve their disability.”