Paracetamol does not help to relieve lower back pain despite it being a commonly prescribed treatment, according to new research.
A study from Australia, published today in the Lancet, has found that the painkiller is no better than a placebo at aiding recovery from or reducing the pain linked to an ailment that afflicts 26 million Britons.
The associate professor Christine Lin, of the Oxford-based George Institute for Global Health, the senior author of the paper, said people with back pain would be better off being as active as possible, avoiding bed rest, using heat packs and considering spinal manipulation.
In the study 1,652 adults in Sydney with acute lower back pain and an average age of 45 were given paracetamol three times a day for four weeks, or when they needed it, or a placebo.
The average time it took them to recover was almost the same for all three groups: 17 days for those taking paracetamol and 16 for those on the placebo. The painkillers yielded no benefit in terms of relieving short-term pain or disability.