Medications for Back Pain
Mild pain medications can reduce inflammation and pain when taken properly.
Medications will not stop degeneration, but they will help with pain control.
Aspirin compounds are over-the-counter pain relievers that can help relieve
minor pain and back ache. The main potential side effect of aspirin is the development
of stomach problems, particularly ulcers with or without bleeding. You should
not take aspirin if you are pregnant. In fact, you should not take any medication
unless you have discussed the medication with your obstetrician.
NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)
NSAIDs include over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
These medications once were only available by prescription. NSAIDs are very
effective in relieving the pain associated with muscle strain and inflammation.
They block the inflammatory response in joints. However, be aware that NSAIDs
can decrease renal function if you are an older patient. Excessive use can lead
to kidney problems. Again, do not take them if you are pregnant.
Non-narcotic Prescription Pain Medication
Non-narcotic analgesics (the term analgesics means "pain relievers") address
pain at the point of injury. Analgesics are ideal in the treatment of mild to
moderate chronic pain. Tylenol and aspirin are the most widely used over-the-counter
analgesics. Medications that are analgesics and require a prescription from
the doctor include NSAIDs such as: carprofen, fenoprofen, ketoprofen, and sulindac.
To reduce any side effects: do not lie down for 15 to 30 minutes after taking
medication, avoid direct sunlight, wear protective clothing, and sun block.
Avoid using these medications if you are pregnant, have recurrent ulcers, or
Narcotic Pain Medications
If you experience severe pain, your health provider might prescribe a narcotic
pain medication such as codeine and morphine. Narcotics relieve pain by acting
as a numbing anesthetic to the central nervous system. The strength and length
of pain relief differs for each drug. Narcotics can cause related side effects
such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, and sedation or drowsiness. These side
effects are predictable and can often be prevented. Common preventative measures
include: not taking sleeping aids or antidepressants in conjunction with narcotics,
avoiding alcohol, increasing fluid intake, eating a high fiber diet, and using
a fiber laxative or stool softener to treat constipation. Remember that narcotics
can be addictive if used excessively or improperly.
If you are having muscle spasms, muscle relaxants can help relieve pain, but
they are only shown to be marginally effective. They also have a significant
risk of drowsiness and depression. Long-term use is not suggested; only three
to four days is typically recommended.
Back pain is actually a common symptom of depression and could be an indicator
of its presence. Antidepressants can relieve emotional stress that leads to
symptoms of back pain. An important fact to note - it seems that the same chemical
reactions in the nerve cells that trigger depression also control the pain pathways
in the brain. Some antidepressant medications seem to reduce pain, probably
because they affect this chemical reaction in the nerve cells. Some types of
antidepressants also make rather good sleeping medications. If you are having
trouble sleeping due to your back pain, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant
to help you get back to a normal sleep routine. Antidepressants can have several
side effects such as: drowsiness, loss of appetite, constipation, dry mouth,
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This page was last updated: July 3, 2013