PACE - The first placebo controlled trial of paracetamol for acute low back pain: Design of a randomised controlled trial

Christopher M. Williams, Jane Latimer, Christopher G. Maher, Andrew J. McLachlan, Chris W. Cooper, Mark J. Hancock, Richard O. Day, James H. McAuley, Chung Wei Christine Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Citations (Scopus)


Background. Clinical practice guidelines recommend that the initial treatment of acute low back pain (LBP) should consist of advice to stay active and regular simple analgesics such as paracetamol 4 g daily. Despite this recommendation in all international LBP guidelines there are no placebo controlled trials assessing the efficacy of paracetamol for LBP at any dose or dose regimen. This study aims to determine whether 4 g of paracetamol daily (in divided doses) results in a more rapid recovery from acute LBP than placebo. A secondary aim is to determine if ingesting paracetamol in a time-contingent manner is more effective than paracetamol taken when required (PRN) for recovery from acute LBP. Methods/Design. The study is a randomised double dummy placebo controlled trial. 1650 care seeking people with significant acute LBP will be recruited. All participants will receive advice to stay active and will be randomised to 1 of 3 treatment groups: time-contingent paracetamol dose regimen (plus placebo PRN paracetamol), PRN paracetamol (plus placebo time-contingent paracetamol) or a double placebo study arm. The primary outcome will be time (days) to recovery from pain recorded in a daily pain diary. Other outcomes will be pain intensity, disability, function, global perceived effect and sleep quality, captured at baseline and at weeks 1, 2, 4 and 12 by an assessor blind to treatment allocation. An economic analysis will be conducted to determine the cost-effectiveness of treatment from the health sector and societal perspectives. Discussion. The successful completion of the trial will provide the first high quality evidence on the effectiveness of the use of paracetamol, a guideline endorsed treatment for acute LBP. Trail registration. ACTRN12609000966291.

Original languageEnglish
Article number169
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


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