Acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol and several other drugs, is commonly recommended for the treatment of spinal pain, arthritis pain and a variety of other aches and pains. In fact, acetaminophen is the most widely used “pain reliever” medication in the United States. Alarmingly, due to its pervasive use and the false belief that it is harmless, acetaminophen is responsible for 50% of all acute liver failure in the United States. Also, acetaminophen cpnsumption causes 56,000 liver-related emergency room visits, 26,000 in-patient hospitalizations, and 458 deaths per year in the United States alone.
Now, adding insult to injury, research shows that acetaminophen fails to relieve back pain or arthritis pain. Research published in March 2015 by the British Medical Journal concluded that acetaminophen is “ineffective in the treatment of low back pain” and it provides only “minimal short term benefit with osteoarthritis”. The researchers caution doctors to reconsider recommendations to use acetaminophen for patients with low back pain and osteoarthritis.
The following circumstances create an exceptionally heighted risk of injury or death from acetaminophen use: fasting (as commonly is the case when patients are ill or in extreme pain); dieting; alcohol consumption; mixing medications; liver disease; malnutrition; anorexia; AIDS; and kidney disease. However, it is important to note that even “routine use” and chronic consumption of acetaminophen can cause liver toxicity. Initial signs and symptoms of acetaminophen toxicity are nausea and vomiting. Liver damage in response to acetaminophen use may also develop without immediate or obvious symptoms.
So, you cannot depend upon acetaminophen to relieve your pain but you can be pretty well assured that it will damage your liver. Oh, and it might kill you. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications which include acetaminophen include Tylenol, Children’s Tylenol, Tylenol PM, Excedrin, Excedrin PM, Alka Seltzer Plus Cold & Flu, and Sudafed Cold & Sinus. Common prescription drugs which contain acetaminophen include Vicodin, Darvocet, Percocet, Endocet, Roxicet, Ultracet, and Midrin. Warnings about acetaminophen consumption generally appear on acetaminophen-containing product labels in print that can be read by any owner of a giant magnifying glass or microscope.
OK, so acetaminophen is ineffective and potentially dangerous. What to do then? Well, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are a bad alternative as NSAIDs also cause significant health problems resulting in more than 100,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths per year in the United States alone. NSAIDs are key ingredients in common OTC drugs including Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Orudis, much cold & flu medications and prescription drugs including Mobic, Celebrex, Bextra, and Vioxx.
There is good news. Safe and natural solutions for spinal pain and arthritic pain do exist. The American Chiropractic Association provides the following options to consider:
1) Chiropractic Structural Care can replace Acetaminophen or NSAIDs as a means of relieving pain and reducing inflammation in many cases. Chiropractic physicians are trained to relieve pain and improve joint function through natural therapies such as chiropractic adjustment/manipulation, trigger point therapy, individualized exercise programs, and various physical therapy modalities including therapeutic laser. There is strong evidence for the effectiveness of these interventions in the treatment of back, neck, and joint pain.
2) Healthy Diet is critical to reducing and preventing inflammation. Some foods and food combinations actually promote inflammation while other foods are anti-inflammatory. Reduce inflammatory components of your diet by increasing consumption of nutrient-dense foods such as lean skinless meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. Consult your chiropractic physician or other healthcare provider for individualized dietary recommendations.
3) Natural Anti-Inflammatory Agents/Supplements can also be of great benefit. For instance, research indicates that 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily reduced joint pain and the need for NSAIDs in 59% of patients with neck and/or back pain. Numerous other vitamins, minerals, and herbs have can also offer great benefit for the reduction of pain and inflammation. However, as with any healthcare intervention, your regimen of herbs and supplements should be individualized to meet your unique needs. In our office, we develop individualized recommendations based on patient history and physical examination as well as thorough blood analysis and other laboratory evaluation.
As the most widely used pain-reliever, acetaminophen might be said to be the “emperor” of the pain-relief drug category. The March 2015 British Medical Journal article has now revealed “the emperor has no clothes”; acetaminophen is not helpful in reducing back pain or arthritic pain. Consult your chiropractic physician for safer and more natural ways to reduce and prevent pain.