Friday, 3 April 2015

Long Term Use of Paracetamol for Low Back Pain is Ineffective and can be Harmful

In a published study in the British Medical Journal, BMJ, of 31 March 2015, 12 high quality studies of the use of paracetamol and the treatment of low back pain and osteoarthritis have shown some very interesting results in terms of its efficacy and side effects.

Low back pain is a main cause of absenteeism and according to the World Health Organisation, low back pain is responsible for more than 100 million workdays lost per year in the United Kingdom and the loss of 149 million workdays or US$200 billion a year in the United States.  We do not have the numbers for New Zealand but using per capita calculation, this should approximate 2 million workdays lost here due to low back pain.

The BMJ reported that negative side effects from the use of paracetamol included liver toxicity, kidney disease, gastrointestinal problems and in some cases may even cause premature death. These negative side effects are suffered even though paracetamol has been shown to be ineffective in the treatment of low back pain.

Most people with low back pain do not have a serious problem in the lower back like fracture or nerve issues.  Low back pain is commonly caused by muscle, ligament, disc or facet problems.  Treatment with microcurrent by increasing the energy going to the specific cells to allow cellular detoxification and healing can help alleviate low back pain.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, low back pain is caused by low kidney energy.  Many patients with low back pain, especially the elderly will also have knee pain.  Acupuncture is proven to help.  These are more natural non-pharmacologic treatments without the side effects that pain killers like paracetamol has.  Weight loss to reduce the burden of carrying an overweight body, physiotherapy and pilates are all useful.

So, the next time you hear of a family, friend or workmate suffering from low back pain, suggest other therapies to them if they are reaching for paracetamol.

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