Experts estimate that 80% of the American population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives and spend at least $50 billion each year seeking relief. Two misconceptions regarding back pain treatment have recently been brought to our attention. The first finding reveals that low back pain sufferers who “stay active” as much as pain allows early during their care are more successful in their recovery efforts. The second misconception is that Acetaminophen is an effective first line treatment against low back pain.
With physical activity and back pain, it appears that too much rest equals rust and babying your back may delay recovery. According to research at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, the fix for low back pain is being as active as possible and resting very little. Apparently too much time on your back is bad for your back.
In a study of 109 people with low back pain, those who kept active as much as their pain allowed got over their back discomfort faster than those who took it very easy. “I think that if you’re suffering with acute low back pain you should try to remain as active as possible and go about your daily business as well as you can,” said Patricia Olaya-Contreras, author of the dissertation. The message is to keep moving (within reason) even if it hurts.
Obviously, you must listen to professional medical advice and be careful to not cause additional harm by going overboard. My experience has been that babying a back injury causes more problems than making cautious demands on it. Careful physical activity will keep your bodies range of motion free and supple and will help to prevent you from getting functionally weaker in those all-important core stabilizing muscles.
Acetaminophen, the drug found in Tylenol, was found to be no more effective than a pill with no medicinal value (placebo) at reducing acute low back pain a new study finds. Worldwide medical guidelines recommend acetaminophen as a first-line treatment for back pain even though research into its back pain specific utility were never conducted.
Lead researcher Dr. Christopher M. Williams of the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia, and his colleagues randomly assigned 1,643 people with acute low back pain to one of three groups. The first was given two boxes: one “regular” box containing 500-milligram acetaminophen tablets, and a second “as-needed” box also containing acetaminophen. The second group received a regular box of acetaminophen and an as-needed box containing a placebo. The third group received two boxes of placebos. All participants were told to take six tablets every day from the regular box, and up to two tablets a day from the as-needed box for pain relief.
People in all three groups took about the same number of days to become pain-free: 17 days in the regular-dose group and the as-needed group, and 16 days in the placebo group. Participants also kept track of their daily pain (on a scale of 1 to 10), and pain scores across the three groups were about the same throughout the study.
The three-month study found no differences among the groups in recovery time, pain, disability, function, symptom changes, sleep or quality of life. About three-quarters of the patients were satisfied with their treatment whether they received medicine, placebos or both. About 85 percent of the participants were pain-free, regardless of what group they were in.
Dr. Williams said that acetaminophen had been shown to be effective for headache, toothache and pain after surgery, but the mechanism of back pain is different and poorly understood. Doctors should not initially recommend acetaminophen to patients with acute low back pain, he said.
The Low back pain and physical activity study was published in the British Medical Journal The Lancet.
The acetaminophen study was funded by GlaxoSmithKline Australia, which sells acetaminophen, and by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.
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