For a number of  years,  a  general practitioner’s most common approach to treating spinal pain was with acetaminophen – better known as paracetamol. However, a recent review states there is ‘high quality’ evidence it is not all that effective.

In 2014 and 2015, 16 percent of the Australian population had back problems. A trip to the doctor may lend itself to further tests, x-rays and health advice, and in many cases, paracetamol is also prescribed as a form of pain relief.

In 2015, researchers from the George Institute for Global Health, Sydney completed a review of data collected only from trials which were representative of the highest standard of evidence, to investigate how effective paracetamol (actetaminophen) is, in the management of spinal pain and osteoarthiritis of the hip or knee.

The results revealed there is ‘high quality’ evidence that paracetamol is not an effective short-term solution in reducing the pain intensity or related disability, due to lower back pain. The long-term effect of using paracetamol in the treatment of spinal pain remains unknown.

According to a review of all relevant literature dated from January 2000 through to March 2017, completed at the Southern California University of Health Sciences this year, the evidence suggests that manipulation and mobilisation is likely to help reduce lower back pain. Spinal manipulation has also been found to be as effective as other medical interventions for both reducing pain and improving overall function.

Alongside spinal manipulation, exercise, ice, and heat therapies are also methods of pain relief that may be worth your consideration in light of news that paracetamol is not.

Exercise could consist of supervised, individually-designed strengthening and stretching components, while ice and heat therapy may be carried out at home, or with the help of your chiropractor.

A 2017 Clinical Practice Guideline from the American College of Physicians also recommended nonpharmacologic treatment methods such as superficial heat, massage, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga, electromyography, motor control exercises, tai chi, low-level laser therapy, spinal manipulation, or cognitive behavioural therapy for acute, subacute and chronic lower back pain. Outcomes from using such treatment methods included reduced or eliminated back pain, improvements in overall function, improvements in quality of life, a return to work, global improvement, patient satisfaction, and reduced episodes of back pain.

When it comes to preventing back pain in the first place, limited research has been released. However, based on the few studies available, you may be able to reduce the risk of suffering from back pain by being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, enjoying life and work, and by being sensible with how you use your back. Where possible, avoid heavy lifting without a lifting aid, and always lift with your legs, rather than your back.

Lower back pain affects a significant part of the population and can contribute to disability and lost productivity. Because acetaminophen is now proven ineffective in pain management for lower back pain, there’s every reason to look into alternative treatments to find out what else may help to reduce your pain levels.