The results of a new Australian study show that the use of acetaminophen for acute low back pain does not decrease recovery time for users. For the study, patients reporting low back pain were divided into three groups: a placebo group, a regular-dose group, and an as-needed group. The groups were provided with two boxes of tablets: one box contained tablets to be taken every 6 to 8 hours, while the other box contained tablets that could be taken on an as-needed basis for pain.

Participants were instructed to continue taking the tablets until they recovered or for 4 weeks, whichever happened first.

The research team found median recovery times for all three groups to be almost identical at 17 days for the regular dose and as-needed groups, and at 16 days for the placebo group. The authors of the study write, “Our findings suggest that regular or as-needed dosing with [acetaminophen] does not affect recovery time compared with placebo in low back pain, and question the universal endorsement of [this drug] in this patient group.”

The authors also observed that participants in the study recovered at a somewhat faster rate “than that typically reported in other cohorts … receiving miscellaneous or usual treatments,” writing that the differences may be attributed to the provision of “good quality advice and reassurance, a feature that is often absent from usual care.”

The authors of the study write, “Our results convey the need to reconsider the universal endorsement of paracetamol [acetaminophen] in clinical practice guidelines as a first-line care for low back pain…and suggest that advice and reassurance, rather than analgesics, should be the focus of first-line care.”

Source: The Lancet