Is It Safe To Take Acetaminophen For Back Pain?

Acetaminophen, often sold under the brand name Tylenol, is used all around the world to relieve pain and fever from illness or injury (via CNS Drug Reviews). It was first made in 1878, but wasn't sold until the 1950s. Acetaminophen can help relieve headaches, menstrual pain, aches associated with the flu, and other mild to moderate pain (via WebMD). For children ages two and older, it's commonly prescribed to reduce fever and discomfort from sickness (via Mayo Clinic). While it's long been a popular over-the-counter drug for adults, studies are now showing that it may not be a good idea to use it to treat more severe health conditions such as back pain (Via The Medical Journal of Australia).

Part of a group of pain medications known as analgesics, scientists believe that acetaminophen works by changing the way your body senses pain (via Everyday Health). While acetaminophen is considered safe, it can cause side effects like allergic reaction, nausea, and vomiting (via Healthline). Doctors also warn of the dangers of overdosing on acetaminophen or mixing it with alcohol. Both of these can lead to liver damage, and eventually to liver failure.

Evidence does not support Acetaminophen as an effective means to treat back pain

Still, doctors continue to prescribe acetaminophen for conditions like osteoarthritis and general back pain (via The Lancet). However, more and more research has revealed that there isn't much evidence that the drug does anything at all for general back pain. One study reviewed trials of the effects of acetaminophen on pain and found strong evidence that it was no better at relieving back pain than a placebo, or sugar pill (via The Medical Journal of Australia). 

Even as the evidence against its effectiveness continues to grow, the guidelines for using acetaminophen have not changed. If you are experiencing back pain, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about ways to control it other than taking acetaminophen. It might be possible to use an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium for pain relief (via Mayo Clinic). Physical therapy is another option that might help you strengthen your muscles and increase flexibility, which could keep your pain at bay.