The evidence does not favor using Tylenol for low back pain.
Tylenol for Low Back Pain? Not so fast according to a recent paper published in the British Medical Journal. Tylenol or acetaminophen, called paracetamol in Europe, has been used to treat chronic joint pain associated with arthritis for years. This study published on March 31 2015 was a systemic review and meta analysis of the published literature on the safety and effectiveness of Tylenol for spine pain or osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. The authors found 13 studies, 12 of which were randomized controlled trials to include in their systemic review.
The authors found there was “high quality” evidence that paracetamol is ineffective for reducing pain intensity, disability, or improving quality of life in the short term in people with low back pain. For hip or knee osteoarthritis there was “high quality” evidence that paracetamol provides a significant, although not clinically important, effect on pain and disability in the short term. There term “not clinically important” pertains to the statistical analysis done on data in a published study; a study can get positive results but only if the results are large enough, based on that analysis, the data is deemed statistically significant or clinically important. The authors also found “high quality” evidence showed that patients taking paracetamol are nearly four times more likely to have abnormal results on liver function tests but they are uncertain what that means for the health of the liver.
Our take away from this study and the last one I covered on Tylenol, that there is little benefit and a potentially great risk for relying on Tylenol for your pain relief needs. A non-steroidal anti-inflamatory might be more effective for managing pain but they too can have a negative effect on kidney and cardiovascular function if taken as your means to manage pain. Ultimately pain relievers should be taken only over a short term and never relied upon as a daily or long term strategy to manage pain. The best way it to take care of your body with proper nutrition and exercise, when that is not enough we offer a solution that is evidence based, safe, and effective.