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Acetaminophen not effective for Back Pain, Study Reports

Update Date: Jul 24, 2014 10:17 AM EDT

Acetaminophen, most commonly sold as Tylenol, is a popular over-the-counter painkiller that many people use. However, according to a new study, the drug might not be effective in relieving pain in all regions of the body. The researchers from Australia reported that acetaminophen is no more effective than a placebo drug in alleviating back pain.

"The mechanisms of back pain are likely to be different from other pain conditions and this is an area that we need to study more," said the study's lead author, Chris Williams of the University of Sydney in Australia.

For this study, the researchers recruited more than 1,600 people suffering from acute lower back pain. The participants had an average age of 45. The participants were randomly given either acetaminophen or a placebo drug to treat their condition. The researchers monitored the participants' recovery time and found no difference between the two groups. People taking acetaminophen recovered after 17 days. People taking the placebo drug were better after 16 days.

"Most people would have thought [acetaminophen] would have some effect, so this was a surprise," said Bart Koes of Erasmus MC University Center in the Netherlands, who co-authored an accompanying commentary reported by CBS News.

Dr. Houman Danesh, the director of Integrative Pain Management and assistant professor of anesthesiology at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, added according to Philly, "Most back pain patients improve in 6-8 weeks. It is important to note that the best treatment of back pain involves not only pain medication, but also physical therapy to address muscle imbalances. Acupuncture for back pain has also been researched by the U.S. National Institute of Health, and after reviewing the literature they state that there is evidence to support the use of acupuncture for back pain."

The study was published in The Lancet.

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