The Functional Back

Back pain self-treatment featuring the Hubble Method

Is Tylenol the right prescription when your back goes out?

Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol ) and ibuprofen are time-tested, go-to treatments when our backs go out. At least, we think they are. A new study in The Lancet put Tylenol to the test against this type of back pain, called acute back pain. How did it stack up? The randomized study of over 1,600 patients assigned participants to one of three groups: One group received Tylenol (they call it paracetamol in Australia, where the study was conducted) three times a day for a month, and two other groups were instructed to take the pills as needed. One of these latter groups received Tylenol, and the other received a placebo. The patients were followed up for three months. It turns out that Tylenol is no better than a placebo for acute back pain, regardless of whether you take it on a regular basis or only as needed. The back pain sufferers in each group took 16-17 days to recover, whether they were swallowing sugar pills or the real thing. As Professor Chris Maher, the lead author of the study sums up, “[Tylenol] didn’t speed time to recovery; it didn’t improve their pain; it didn’t improve their disability.” What did help people recover from acute back pain? Dr. Maher believes it was this simple advice from their doctors: avoid bed rest. We have a more robust, though equally easy, system for acute back pain treatment that helps you recover faster. It will soon be available as an online course, so stay tuned.