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Back pain is a common problem here in Canada1. Many causes can contribute to back pain including muscle spasms, strains, herniated discs and arthritis. When Canadians with back pain seek help, medication is typically the first form of help they receive. However, when we reach into the medicine cabinet we should keep in mind that not all over-the-counter pain medications may be right for us.

A recent review study on Acetaminophen (Tylenol) has found the medication “ineffective” for reducing pain and disability2associated with back pain. This study also found very minimal improvement in symptoms of arthritis of the hip or knee. Acetaminophen’s lack of benefit is made more worrisome when it’s potential adverse effects on the liver3 and to fetal development4 are considered. Acetaminophen overdose is a common occurrence in Canada and has the serious adverse effects of liver failure and death in some cases5.

There are a number of non-medication based treatments for back pain which are both safe and effective:

  • Exercise: strengthening back and abdominal muscles is an essential component of the recovery process.
  • Diet: body weight management and elimination of foods which you are allergic or sensitive to can significantly improve back pain in many cases.
  • Prolozone therapy: treatment with prolozone (ozone) injections help patients with arthritis and back pain to reduce their pain and increase their mobility.
  • Acupuncture and neural prolotherapy: are excellent treatments for resolving muscular tightness and nerve impingement associated with back pain.

An integrative approach to back pain can not only achieve great results but also speed the process of recovery.

  1. Schopflocher D, Taenzer P, Jovey R. The prevalence of chronic pain in Canada. Pain Res Manag. 2011 Nov-Dec;16(6):445-50.
  2. Machado G, Maher C, Ferreira P, Pinheiro M, Lin C, O Day R, McLachlan A, Ferreira M. Efficacy and safety of paracetamol for spinal pain and osteoarthritis: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised placebo controlled trials. BMJ 2015;350:h1225.
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Acetaminophen Prescription Combination Drug Products with More than 325 Mg: FDA Statement. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 14 Jan. 2014. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.
  4. Liew Z, Ritz B, Rebordosa C, Lee PC, Olsen J. Acetaminophen use during pregnancy, behavioral problems, and hyperkinetic disorders. JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Apr;168(4):313-20.
  5. Myers RP, Li B, Fong A, Shaheen AA, Quan H. Hospitalizations for acetaminophen overdose: a Canadian population-based study from 1995 to 2004. BMC Public Health. 2007 Jul 5;7:143.

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