This Common Pain Reliever May Not Be Doing Its Job

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This Common Pain Reliever May Not Be Doing Its JobWhen most people suffer from back pain, they typically reach for pain relief medication containing acetaminophen. However, according to a study from researchers in Australia—surprisingly funded by GlaxoSmithKline, one of the biggest manufacturers of acetaminophen drugs—just letting the pain subside naturally may be just as effective as taking medication.

A study published in the scientific journal The Lancet found that patients who took placebos and sugar pills for lower back pain had the same recovery time as patients who were given acetaminophen.

The researchers looked at 1,643 patients who were suffering from acute lower back pain. The first group (550 participants) took six 665-milligram acetaminophen tablets a day along with one to two placebo/sugar pills. The second group (546 patients) was given six placebo tablets a day along with one to two 500-milligram acetaminophen tablets a day. The third group was given only placebo/sugar pills. The study found no difference in recovery time across the three groups, suggesting that acetaminophen may not be as effective at relieving back pain as was once thought.

Despite the findings of the study, the researchers caution against dismissing using acetaminophen to relieve all pain. The painkiller is still effective in relieving pain and discomfort from toothaches and following surgery. Further research will be needed to determine why acetaminophen is so ineffective in treating lower back pain.

Lower back pain is one of the most common job-related disabilities. Physicians typically recommend taking over-the-counter pain relief medication, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Applying hot or cold packs and rest are also recommended.

However, there are natural alternatives to over-the-counter medications that can be used for pain relief, such as turmeric, ginger, green tea, rosemary, cat’s claw, devil’s claw, and willow bark. Turmeric supplements are especially effective at fighting lower back pain.

Other options for treating lower back pain include fish oil and vitamin D. Fish oil is an effective anti-inflammatory, and it can help to relieve the symptoms of lower back pain. Chronic pain, regardless of its location, may be caused by a vitamin D deficiency, meaning pain relief may be a simple matter of taking vitamin D supplements.

Adding a little spice can also fight the effects of chronic lower back pain. Capsaicin, found in chili peppers, is surprisingly effective at fighting pain. A topical ointment made with capsaicin is highly effective in treating lower back pain.

Finally, the findings are mixed, but there is evidence that magnesium supplements may also help to ease lower back pain.

Before starting any alternative treatment, consult with your family doctor first to ensure that any methods you’re going to use won’t interact with any of your current medications or conditions.

Related Article: Lower Back Pain on the Left Side

Sources for Today’s Article:
“Acetaminophen may not relieve back pain,” The Chart, CNN Health web site, July 24, 2014;
Griffin, R.M., “Supplements for pain relief,” WebMD web site, April 24, 2012;, last accessed August 5, 2014.