Study finds paracetamol not effective for back pain
Posted 1 April 2015 12:00 AM by Dr Sarah Brewer
A study just published in the British Medical Journal looked at the results of 13 randomised trials and concluded that paracetamol is not effective for reducing back pain, and that it provides only minimal short-term benefit for treating osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. This may seem surprising given that paracetamol is licensed to treat mild to moderate pain (and fever). One possible explanation is that as it has no anti-inflammatory action it is less helpful in these two conditions, where some low-grade inflammation is usually present. Another possibility is that the study method was flawed, or that the people involved happened, by chance, to not respond well to paracetamol because of their genetic make-up.
If paracetamol works for you, there is no reason to stop taking it – everyone is different and responds to medicines in different ways. If you’ve always had a sneaky suspicion that paracetamol doesn’t help, however, a variety of options are available including topical creams and gels.
For low back pain, a Cochrane review in 2006 stated that ‘Two high quality trials examining the effects of Devil's Claw found strong evidence that daily doses standardized to 50mg or 100mg harpagoside were better than placebo for short-term improvements in pain and rescue medication.’ Oddly, a recent update of this same review reached the same conclusion but now describes these same studies as providing low-quality evidence!
Healthspan’s Devil’s Claw Jointaid is a traditional herbal medicine, (THR) that has been shown to relieve backache, rheumatic and muscular pain.
For osteoarthritis, a recent, robust, international study showed that glucosamine hydrochloride plus chondroitin sulphate supplements are as effective in treating severe knee osteoarthritis as the prescribed anti-inflammatory drug, celecoxib. After 6 months, the response rate for both treatments was identical at almost 80%. Both groups showed a greater than 50% reduction in symptoms of pain, stiffness, swelling and joint effusions.
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