Back pain is primarily treated with pain medications. Although these drugs cannot cure the underlying cause of the back pain, such as an injury, nonetheless, they can provide prompt relief from the pain. Most of these medications are considered safe when used for a short time.
Medications to Treat Back Pain
Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID)
NSAIDs are commonly used as the first line treatment for reducing back pain. The mild analgesics available over the counter that are usually considered safe for reducing back pain include ibuprofen, and naproxen. These medications work by preventing production of inflammatory chemicals that trigger pain. Up to four non-prescription ibuprofen pills can be taken for a few days to reduce pain.
Although these drugs are well tolerated, in few cases they cause side effects such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, tinnitus and nervousness. Naproxen may cause bleeding in the stomach. Long-term use of this drug increases the risk of circulation and heart problems. If your back pain does to respond to mild NSAIDs, your physician might recommend prescription NSAIDs such as meloxicam, celecoxib, nabumetone and diclofenac. Higher doses of these drugs when used for a prolonged period increase the risk of ulcers and kidney problems.
Acetaminophen or Paracetamol
Mild backache can be healed with acetaminophen. These drugs belong to the category of medicines known as antipyretics and analgesics. The extended release acetaminophen medications can provide relief from the pain for a longer time. However, just as the aforementioned NSAIDs, acetaminophen drugs should be used only for a short time. Prolonged use of high doses of the drug may cause liver damage.
Back pain that do not respond to NSAIDs and acetaminophen are frequently treated with muscle relaxants or medications that help to reduce the muscle spasms that trigger pain. Muscle relaxants used for treating back pain include cyclobenzaprine, carisoprodol, tizanidine and baclofen.These drugs provide fast relief from acute backache. They are especially prescribed for treating back pain resulting from injury. Although tolerated by most people, muscle relaxants may cause drowsiness.
Corticosteroids are injected into the site of the pain or taken orally to reduce backache. These powerful anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed only for treating severe back pain that cannot be healed with conventional therapies. However, too much use of corticosteroids increases the risk of bone loss, diabetes and weight gain. The risk of side effects can be reduced by limiting use of corticosteroids to three injections a year for treating chronic back pain.
Opioids are prescribed by doctors only when prescription NSAIDs, muscle relaxants and corticosteroids cannot alleviate severe chronic back pain. These narcotic medications should be taken only under close medical supervision. Opioids work by numbing the pain receptors in the brain and obstructing transmission of pain signals. In most cases, doctors prescribe mild formulations of opioid drugs that usually combine an opioid compound with an acetaminophen.
Morphine, the strongest opioid painkiller is prescribed only when the milder opioids fail to reduce the pain. Side effects of these drugs include drowsiness, constipation and allergic reactions. Long-term use of these medications increases the risk of dependence. Recent studies have revealed that prolonged use of these drugs may worsen the back pain by changing the response of the nervous system to the pain signals.