Introduction: Paracetamol is one of the most frequently used analgesics for people with low back pain, but despite its frequent use there is still debate regarding its efficacy and safety for this indication. Areas covered: We describe the origin of paracetamol and its proposed mechanisms of action. We focus in on low back pain and describe the evidence it has on the efficacy of paracetamol (taken by patients orally) and current insights on its side-effects. When searching for relevant publications we focused mainly on recent Cochrane reviews and published RCTs. We found that there is increasing evidence that shows paracetamol is not more effective than placebo in patients with acute low back pain. Concerning patients with subacute and chronic back pain, the evidence for or against the efficacy of paracetamol vs placebo is lacking and would need more research. Expert opinion: We argue that we still need better evidence on the efficacy of paracetamol for acute and chronic back pain. Until that evidence becomes available paracetamol should still be considered as an option for patients with back pain. However, we suggest that a strategy focusing on nonpharmacological management as the first treatment option in low back pain may be equally effective with less side effects.

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Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology
Department of General Practice

Koes, B.W, Schreijenberg, M, & Tkachev, A. (2020). Paracetamol for low back pain: the state of the research field. Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, 13(9), 1059–1066. doi:10.1080/17512433.2020.1817738