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Should I take Paracetamol?

7 July 2016

Should I take Paracetamol?

Paracetamol holds the crown as the world's most widely used over-the-counter medication. Commonly referred to in Australia under the brand name Panadol, almost everybody has taken it at least once and there is a high chance that there are a few tablets within 50m of you right now. In the entire western world it is often a doctor's first choice for pain relief or reducing fever (with the exception of North America, who have a continuing and consuming love affair with Aspirin). It is a very safe medication with minimal pharmacological interactions and a large variance in safe dosage levels. This all sounds pretty brilliant, which is why paracetamol also carries the banner of being one of the most inappropriately used medications.

Positively, paracetamol can play an important role in the management of fevers, headaches, head colds and the short term management of minor ailments such toothaches. In these circumstances the prescribed directions on the box are appropriate when calculating therapeutic dosage and if pain persists it is recommended you seek a medical professional to find the source of the problem and achieve greater relief.

Paracetamol's usefulness is extremely limited however in relation to muscle, joint and chronic pain conditions.  A 2008 research review examining the use of paracetamol as a treatment of lower back pain found no evidence to support its widespread use. This was taken one step further by researchers from the University of NSW in 2014, when they investigated whether taking a daily regular dosage of paracetamol may be more or less effective in current and future pain relief when compared to only taking the medication on the onset of pain. They found that there was no difference to pain outcomes in either group when compared to a placebo. Similar results have been found in multiple studies looking at paracetamol usage in treatment of muscle and joint injuries.  If you are experiencing lower back pain, joint pain or think you may have a muscle injury, the most effective treatment is to consult a physiotherapist who can provide a full examination, treatment plan and help eliminate any future injuries. Physiotherapy has been demonstrated to be an effective management for both new musculoskeletal injuries and long standing chronic pain conditions throughout the body.

If you have a minor muscle pain non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil or Nurofen), are preferable to paracetamol in providing the most pharmacological short term benefit however for lasting benefit and to find the source/cause of the pain, make an appointment with Adelaide Advanced Physiotherapy today.

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