Why you should never take this painkiller for back pain — and what you should take instead

Volume 7    |    Issue 62

When your back hurts, all you want is relief. Reaching for a painkiller is the quickest way to take the edge off. And if you go see a doctor about it, it's highly likely they'll tell you to take acetaminophen (Tylenol). That's because the medical schools teach them to prescribe it for this condition. But Tylenol has serious side effects. And, according to one large study, it often doesn't work any better than a placebo.

For this study, a group of researchers split 1,643 participants — all who had low-back pain — into three different groups. They had one group take acetaminophen three times daily (3,990 mg daily). They gave the drug to the second group only as they needed it. They allowed the people in this group to take up to 4,000 mg per day. And they gave the third group a placebo.

To determine the effectiveness of the Tylenol, the researchers asked the participants to record their pain on a scale of 1 to 10. The average score was 6.3. Then they asked the participants to continue taking the medication for four weeks or until they achieved a score of 0 to 1 on the intensity scale, whichever came first.

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After the first week of treatment, their mean pain-intensity scores dropped for all three groups: 3.7 for the first group, 3.8 for those taking it as needed, and 3.6 for the placebo group. After the second week of treatment, the scores were 2.6, 2.6, and 2.5 respectively. And by the fourth week, all of their scores dropped to 1.7, 1.8, and 1.7 respectively.

Obviously, the placebo worked just as well as the Tylenol. And, what's more, the group taking a placebo actually recovered faster! For the people taking the medication, their average time to recover was 17 days. But those taking the placebo recovered on average in just 16 days. The drug didn't help with other aspects of recovery either. All of the participants reported similar results in their sustained recovery, sleep quality, and physical and mental quality of life.

Based on these results, why would anyone take Tylenol for back pain? It doesn't seem to offer much benefit over a placebo. And it can cause serious liver damage. If you have to take a painkiller, ibuprofen is a much better option for the short term. But it can cause problems too. And there are safer ways to reduce low back pain: alternating heat and ice, stretching exercises, chiropractic, massage, and Prolozone or PRP (which I've told you about in the past).

But there's also some great nutrients you can use. Potassium can completely eliminate your pain all by itself if you have sciatica. Taking magnesium and soaking in a magnesium (Epson salt) bath can work wonders. Turmeric can help with inflammation. White willow bark can offer some pain relief without the side effects of painkillers. And boswellia (in the form of boswellic acid) can increase the blood flow to your back and it inhibits enzymes like COX-2, 5-LOX, and MMP-3. All of these are involved in the inflammatory response. You can get the first two nutrients at any grocery or drugstore. And the last three you can find in Ultimate Knee Relief. I know what you're thinking — take a knee supplement for my back? Yes! This formulation is designed for knee pain, but it works for just about any type of joint pain — including your back.

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About Steve Kroening, ND


For over 25 years, Editor-In-Chief Steve Kroening has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Frank Shallenberger, Janet Zand, Nan Kathryn Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.

Steve researches breakthrough cures and treatments you won't hear about from mainstream medicine or even other "alternative" writers. He writes in a friendly, easy-to-read style that always gives you the power to guide your own health choices and do more research on your own.