A recent study that looked at the effectiveness of paracetemol in helping with back pain has found that it is no more effective than a placebo.

The University of Sydney conducted this study. They separated participants into 3 groups, one took paracetemol whenever they felt pain, another took the placebo and another took the paracetemol three times per day. The results showed that there was no difference amongst the three groups. (Williams et al)

A group of researchers in Australia looked at the efficacy and safety of paracetemol by reviewing randomized placebo controlled trials. They also found that all of the high quality studies they reviewed paracetemol is ineffective in treating the pain and disability associated with lower back pain and therefore does nothing to improve a patient’s quality of life. They also looked at studies involved in the efficacy of paracetemol for patients suffering from hip and knee osteoarthritis. They concluded that paracetemol may offer a small benefit; however, it was not a clinically important benefit in reducing disability and pain. They also found that there was high quality evidence that shown patients taking regular maximum doses of paracetemol are 4 times more likely to have abnormal liver function results as compared to those people taking a placebo. (Machado et al) They concluded that using paracetemol as a first line of treatment, as is the recommendation at this time, should be re-evaluated.

Paracetemol is a drug that is not without side effects and is often overused in the community. We always recommend the use of ice for back pain as it is a very good anti-inflammatory which leads to a reduction in pain. Ice is free of side effects.

For further information:






Williams, C, Maher, C, Latimer, J, McLachlan, A, Hancock, M, Day, R, Chung-Wei, C . (2014) Efficacy of paracetemol for acute low-back pain: a double-blind, randomized controlled trial. Lancet Vol 384 p 1586-1596. Published on line Nov 1 2014

Machado, G, Maher,C, Ferreira, P, Pinheiro, M, Chung-Wei, C, Day, R, McLachlan, A, Ferreira, M. (2015) Efficacy and safety of paracetemol for spinal pain and osteoarthritis: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized placebo controlled trials. BMJ.

Dr Karen