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Panadol – No Better Than A Dummy Pill


The most common pain reliever for back pain, paracetamol, doesn’t work any better than a placebo.

The shocking conclusion that the beneficial effects of such a widely-used drug might be all in the mind are drawn by a paper published this morning in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet.

Nearly everyone goes through a bout of low back pain at some point in their life.

Back pain affects 4 out of 5 people in Australia and about one in 10 people experience significant activity limitation.

The condition is also rated by the World Health Organisation as Australia’s most burdensome disease, alongside heart disease.

Currently, almost every back pain treatment guideline in the world recommends Panadol (Paracetamol) as the first-line pain relieve. But research published in the prestigious Lancet medical journal shows that the beneficial effects of this almost universal advice might be all in the mind. Taking paracetamol to relieve lower back pain doesn’t work any better than a placebo, a new trial carried out in Australia has found.

The large double-blind randomised controlled trial was carried out by researchers from the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and University of Newcastle, all in Australia. It was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and GlaxoSmithKline Australia. 

One group received a placebo, another was told to take paracetamol as needed (maximum 4000 mg per day) and a third received up to four weeks of paracetamol in regular doses (three times a day; equivalent to 3990mg per day)

It’s not like the research team didn’t try hard enough to prove the lower back pain benefits of paracetamol. In the group assigned to take regular paracetamol doses, they were told to take a daily dose of 3990mg! Even at that super-high, liver damaging dose, paracetamol was useless.

The study concluded that Paracetamol had no effect on short-term pain levels, disability, function, sleep quality, or quality of life, and the number of patients reporting negative side effects was similar in all groups.


What you should do instead of picking Panadol?

The treatment for back pain is complex and can’t be fixed with one pill. Many people reach for the pill bottle with little or no thought of what it might do to their health in the long run.

Thorough understanding of the cause of the problem is critical in ensuring suitable treatment and long term relief.

Disability due to back pain may be more amenable to prevention.

  • Start on a suitable exercise and stretching regime to correct your posture and increase strength, flexibility and balance.
  • Correct posture and learn breathing techniques to ensure long term relief.
  • Emotional health and stress can have a major influence on physical pain. adopt relaxation techniques like massage, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, etc.
  • Maintain optimal weight
  • Pilates, water aerobics and swimming are another gentle way to alleviate lower back pain.
  • Choosing your pillow and mattress to maintaining the natural curves in your back while sleeping is key.
  • Check your Vitamin D levels and ensure optimal levels to prevent the softening of your bones that can often lead to back pain.
  • Use anti-inflammatory nutrients like Omega 3’s and Bromelain
  • Herbs such as Ginger, Curcumin, Boswellia have also powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce lower back pain tremendously.
  • Massage and manual manipulation bypasses addictive medicines going hands on – providing direct relief through the muscle-skeletal knowledge of a qualified practitioner.
  • FlexEze Heat Patches are the safe, convenient and cost effective way to relieve sore back muscles. Clinical Studies have shown that continues low-level heat therapy is more effective and safe than taking medications such as Ibobrufen and Paracetamol.

Prolonged sitting and poor posture are major risk factors for back pain. Disability due to back pain may be more amenable to prevention.

Thorough understanding of the cause of the problem is critical in ensuring suitable treatment and long term relief for back pain.


Further reading:



1.Williams CM, Maher CG, Latimer J, et al. Efficacy of paracetamol for acute low-back pain: a double-blind, randomised controlled trial. The Lancet. Published online July 24 2014, http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)60805-9/abstract

2.Jeffries LJ, Milanese SF, Grimmer-Somers KA. Epidemiology of adolescent spinal pain. A systematic overview of the research literature. Spine 2007; 32: 2630-2637.

3.Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4823.0.55.001 – Musculoskeletal Conditions in Australia: A Snapshot, 04-05.


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