Back Pain Medication
Our society consumes millions of pain medications to deal
with everything from a headache to chronic back pain. Common
medications such as acetaminophen (also known as Tylenol),
NSAIDs, oral steroids, narcotic drugs, muscle relaxants, and
anti-depressants all have their uses, benefits and risks in
the struggle against back pain or neck pain. Knowing more
about these medications before you buy and use them can help
prevent major issues.
There are multiple over-the-counter (non-prescription)
and prescription medications that can be helpful in
relieving pain and addressing related symptoms while an
episode of back pain is getting better. Careful attention to
pain management is a critical component of a patientís
recovery, as acute or chronic low back pain can lead to
depression, difficulty sleeping, and difficulty exercising
and stretching, all of which in turn can exacerbate and
prolong a painful back condition.
Pain relievers are
generally available in three forms: oral, topical, and
- Oral pain medications. There are many forms
of pain medications that are taken by mouth Ė pill or
liquid form - and they each work differently and have
unique benefits and potential risks. Some are available
only by prescription.
- Topical pain medications. These products are
applied to the skin and are intended to reduce localized
pain, such as pain from a sore muscle or from an
arthritic joint. Most are available without a
prescription. Brands of several popular topical pain
relievers include Icy Hot, Arthricare, Zostrix
(capsaicin), Aspercreme, Ben Gay, and many store brands.
- Injections. Pain relieving medication and/or
anti-inflammatory medications can be injected directly
to the source of the pain.
While there are many over-the-counter pain medications
used to address back pain, the two most common types are
acetaminophen (for example, brand name Tylenol) and
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs (for
example, brand name Advil). Because acetaminophen and
NSAIDís work differently to address the pain, they may be
taken at the same time. For example, a patient in severe
pain may take the recommended dose of acetaminophen, and
then two to three hours later take the recommended dose of
ibuprofen, and repeat this pattern as appropriate.
For short periods of time, prescription medications (such
as narcotic pain medications or muscle relaxants) may be
helpful to alleviate pain or related complications. Other
classes of drugs (such as antidepressants or anti-seizure
medications) can also help modulate the sensation of pain
and can be taken on a prolonged basis.
There are risks, side effects and drug interactions with
any medication, so a medical professional should always be
consulted prior to taking medications. Patients should be
especially cautious with medications if they are on other
medications or have any significant medical conditions (e.g.
While a few major risks and side effects are outlined for
some medications on this site, patients should always read
the label and package inserts and consult with a physician
for a complete understanding of risks, side effects, and
This article provides a thorough overview of the most
common prescription and nonprescription medications used to
relieve back pain and neck pain.