Paracetamol ineffective for acute lower back pain

First-line treatment for lower back pain is no more effective than placebo.

Paracetamol is recommended as first-line treatment for patients with acute lower back pain but there is no evidence to support this universal endorsement, say researchers.

In an Australian study published in The Lancet (online, 24 July 2014), patients received either regular doses of paracetamol (three times per day, equivalent to 3,990mg, n=550), as-needed paracetamol (up to 4,000mg per day, n=549) or placebo (n=553) for four weeks or until recovery, whichever was quicker. On average, it took 17 days for the patients taking both regular and as-needed paracetamol to recover and 16 days for the group given placebo (P=0.79).

“Neither regular nor as-needed dosage of paracetamol improved recovery time compared with placebo,” conclude the authors, and endorsement of paracetamol for this patient group should be questioned, they say. 

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 26 July/2 August 2014, Vol 293, No 7820/1;293(7820/1):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20065943

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