UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Acetaminophen and low back pain.

Posted: 3/8/2024 by Brian Corwell, MD (Emailed: 3/9/2024) (Updated: 7/17/2024)
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Acetaminophen and low back pain.

Acetaminophen has been a traditionally recommended first line intervention for acute low back pain. 

Cochrane reviews in 2016 and 2023 found that acetaminophen showed no benefit compared to placebo in patients with acute low back pain.

A 2020 study investigated whether the addition of acetaminophen to short term NSAID therapy was beneficial.

A randomized double-blind study conducted in two urban emergency departments.

Patients randomized to a 1-week course of ibuprofen plus acetaminophen versus ibuprofen plus placebo.

Population: patients presenting with acute, non-radicular, non-traumatic lower back pain of fewer than two weeks duration.

Authors compared pain and functional outcomes at  one week following discharge.

Conclusion: there was no outcome benefit from the addition of acetaminophen to ibuprofen.


Friedman BW, et al. Ibuprofen Plus Acetaminophen Versus Ibuprofen Alone for Acute Low Back Pain: An Emergency Department-based Randomized Study. Acad Emerg Med. 2020 Mar;27(3):229-235.