An extremely well-designed study, published today in The Lancet, confirms what those of us who work with back pain patients know all too well: taking Tylenol for acute back pain gives you something to do, but doesn’t help you get out of pain faster. At least not any faster than a placebo.
The study defined “recovery” from acute back pain as 7 consecutive days of pain at a “0” or “1” on the 0 – 10 scale. Patients who took Tylenol regularly took an average of 17 days to recover; it also took 17 days for patients who took Tylenol as needed. It took patients who received a placebo 16 days, but don’t rub it in, that’s probably not statistically significant.
The authors said the study was done because Tylenol is usually the first thing suggested, but there was no research backing that recommendation. Now there is research and “regular or as-needed dosing with paracetamol (Tylenol) does not affect recovery time compared with placebo in low-back pain.” The authors “question the universal endorsement of paracetamol in this patient group.”