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Should I use paracetamol for my back pain?

Recently paracetamol has been in the headlines again, because a scientific paper in a major journal (the British Medical Journal) reported that it was ineffective for lower back pain, and indeed is minimally effective for people with osteoarthritis.

Actually, the mechanism of paracetamol as a painkiller has always been a bit of a mystery, but other painkillers known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, are generally thought to be better at dealing with inflammation. It may be that much lower back pain is actually associated with inflammation, and hence paracetamol is not the right painkiller for it.

Paracetamol is thought to be useful for headaches, toothache, and reducing fever – and its action can be enhanced by taking it with caffeine.

We have previously reported on the potential for long-term, high-level use of paracetamol, so if you have chronic back pain, then you may wish to talk to your doctor about alternatives.