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Study questions efficacy of popular drug in treating low back pain

While it may seem hard to believe, the leading cause of disability in the entire world is lower back pain. Indeed, studies have shown that the economic costs associated with this debilitating condition average an unbelievable $100 billion-plus per year here in the U.S.

When it comes to treating lower back pain, the treatment guidelines universally recommend that sufferers should be instructed to take paracetamol, a mild analgesic that can be found on drug store shelves everywhere.

Interestingly enough, a recently published study by Australian researchers found that paracetamol, otherwise known as acetaminophen, actually does almost nothing to help treat lower back pain.

The study, published in the latest edition of the medical journal The Lancet, involved 1,652 patients diagnosed with severe lower back pain being randomly assigned either paracetamol or placebos for treatment as needed or to take three times a day. They were then given regular advice and monitored for three months.

Somewhat surprisingly, the study found that there was virtually no difference between the two groups concerning the number of days needed to recover, with the placebo group averaging 16 days for recovery time and the paracetamol group averaging 17 days for recovery time.

Furthermore, the researchers noted no statistically significant difference between the two groups concerning function, quality of sleep, quality of life, short-term pain and even disability.

"We need to reconsider the universal recommendation to provide paracetamol as a first-line treatment," said one of the primary authors of the study.

Interestingly, the researchers conceded that they were uncertain as to why paracetamol, which has proven effective in treating everything from toothaches to headaches, was so ineffective in the treatment of lower back pain.

While the international medical community has welcomed the results of the study, many physicians did caution that further research was needed to test the efficacy of paracetamol in treating lower back pain. Still others indicated that the study was further proof of the need to explore treatment alternatives for this all-too-common condition.

Anyone suffering from severe back pain knows firsthand just how difficult it can be to treat and even endure. Fortunately, those whose condition prevents them from working despite their best efforts may be able to secure Social Security disability benefits to help them make ends meet.

Source: Yahoo! News, "Paracetamol no better than placebo for low back pain, study finds," Kate Kelland, July 24, 2014

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