It may be a first-line treatment, but acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol, and other brands) is just about useless when it comes to relief of low back pain.
That was the conclusion Australian researchers came to in a review of clinical trials published in the British Medical Journal in 2015.
When acetaminophen fails to bring relief, often a patient’s next step is to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin.
Surely these are effective at reducing back pain?
No, they aren’t. A new review by the same research group finds that even anti-inflammatories offer little benefit to back pain sufferers.
Only One Patient in Six is Helped
For their review, the George Institute for Global Health based at Sydney Medical School examined 35 trials involving over 6,000 patients taking NSAIDs.
Results were published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases on the 2nd of February, 2017.
The researchers found that only one patient out of six achieved significant pain reduction. The article concluded that these drugs “provided clinically unimportant effects over placebo.”
Also – a well-known side effect — this class of drug increased the risk of gastro-intestinal reactions such as bleeding or stomach ulcers by 2½ times. In the United States, more than 16,000 people a year die of NSAID-related causes, mostly gastrointestinal, according to a 1999 study.
Associate Professor Manuela Ferreira, lead author of the Sydney study, said “…our results show anti-inflammatory drugs actually only provide very limited short-term pain relief. They do reduce the level of pain but only very slightly, and arguably not of any clinical significance.
“If you consider the side-effects, which are important, we argue that the benefit is not really worthwhile.”
Fellow study author Gustavo Machado added, “Millions are taking drugs that not only don’t work very well, they’re causing harm. We need treatments that will actually provide substantial relief of these people’s symptoms.
“Better still, we need a strong focus on preventing back pain in the first place. We know that education and exercise programs can substantially reduce the risk of developing low back pain.”
Treating Back Pain Without Drugs
There are a number of alternatives if you’re seeking drug-free pain relief. These include visiting a therapeutic massage or zero balancing therapist, an acupuncturist or good chiropractor.
If you want a do-it-yourself solution, try the safe anti-inflammatories derived from nature, such as fish oils or curcumin, for example. Other popular choices include boswellia, silymarin, and proteolytic enzymes (Wobenzym is a good brand). All of these can be taken together or in any combination you choose, and in quite large quantities. They’re completely nontoxic.
To prevent back pain, see if the following procedures help:
- Lose excess pounds. The gut hanging over your belt is a huge strain on your spine.
- Stay mobile. Take regular daily walks.
- Vary your sleep position to include both your sides and back. Don’t lie on your chest as this strains the neck and lower back. Sleep on a medium-to-firm mattress (not too soft or too hard).
- Adopt a good sitting posture with thighs sloped slightly downward. Desk chairs should mold to support the lower back. Sit with tops of ears in line with shoulders. Take regular breaks when sitting.
- Improve posture and help prevent back pain by exercises that promote balance, strength and flexibility in the spine. Straighten Up UK is a series of gentle daily exercises that takes less than 7 minutes (see references below). Many people also find yoga helpful.
With regular attention to strategies like these, back pain episodes should occur less and less frequently. Hopefully, they will disappear altogether.
If you’d like a really thorough review of all your natural options, our sister company, Online Publishing & Marketing, offers a book called The Ultimate Guide to Conquering Pain. Just click on the link to see a full description of the book.