Acetaminophen, known by its trade name as Tylenol, is not an effective treatment for lower back pain, according to a new meta-analysis review published in the British Medical Journal. On the basis of these findings, doctors suggest alternative treatment methods.
Researchers looked at the data from 13 randomized controlled trials, and found that acetaminophen was not only ineffective against lower back pain, but also offered only “minimal short-term benefit” for patients with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee.
“While many people with back pain traditionally turned to acetaminophen as the first option for pain relief, this new report … is changing public perception and use of this drug,” said Gerard Clum, a Doctor of Chiropractic and spokesperson for the non-profit Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, in a press release. “Most alarming is that overuse of the drug can result in liver damage and/or failure.”
In the accompanying editorial, researchers say the findings aren’t that surprising, and urge doctors to prescribe physical treatments, including exercise, as ways to manage lower back pain and osteoarthritis.
“Mounting evidence confirms that early use of chiropractic care for pain management generates optimal patient outcomes,” said Dr. Clum in the press release.
About 22 million Americans visit chiropractors each year, 35% of whom seek treatment for mid- or lower back pain. By realigning the vertebra, chiropractic treatments remove tension, thereby educing pain, decreasing the need for medication, and rapidly advancing physical therapy efforts. According to a statement from the American College of Physicians, spinal manipulation is actually the most effective treatment for acute lower back pain, and for chronic pain pain.
“While over-the-counter drugs, such as acetaminophen, are readily available, there needs to be greater understanding of the risks associated with these drugs,” said Dr. Clum. “Now that they are shown to be ineffective in managing back pain, there should be no reason to ever take them for this purpose. Chiropractic is the most logical, effective approach.”