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Acetaminophen for Osteoarthritis: Is There Any Benefit?

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A reader of Scientific American Consumer Health's Arthritis White Paper asks: "Is acetaminophen a good choice for osteoarthritis (OA) pain relief? I’ve tried it for my hip OA but it doesn’t seem to help much." Here's our advice.

A. Some guidelines recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) as one of many options for osteoarthritis (OA) pain relief. Nevertheless, your experience is in line with findings from a recent study, reported in The BMJ (British Medical Journal), which demonstrated that it provides only minimal benefit for hip or knee pain caused by OA.

Given concerns that acetaminophen can be toxic to the liver if consumption exceeds 4,000 mg—the maximum recommended daily dose from all sources—the authors of this study wanted to determine whether the benefits of acetaminophen outweigh the risks. They evaluated data from 13 clinical trials and found that people with hip or knee OA who were treated with acetaminophen (most at 4,000 mg daily) showed only minimal short-term improvements in pain, barely better than others who took placebo pills.

Also, people who took acetaminophen were nearly four times more likely than nonusers to have abnormal results on tests of liver function. While that didn’t necessarily mean that these patients suffered liver damage, it suggested that the limited benefits acetaminophen offers for hip or knee OA (or low back pain) may not be worth the risk.

If your OA-related hip pain isn’t relieved by acetaminophen, talk to your doctor about other drug and nondrug options. 


Posted in Arthritis on January 8, 2016

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Health After 50 Disclaimer

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Scientific American White Paper: Arthritis Cover

2016 Arthritis White Paper

Arthritis now affects millions of Americans. The Scientific American Consumer Health Arthritis White Paper provides in-depth knowledge on the most recent breakthroughs concerning the most common forms of arthritis-osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, it includes two other rheumatic diseases: fibromyalgia syndrome and bursitis, and also ankylosing spondylitis, gout, and lyme disease.

Click here to read more or order

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