Back Pain Treatment

Medications Used to Treat Back Pain

There are many medications that are used for the treatment of chronic back pain. While some types of back pain medication are available over-the-counter, others are available only with a doctor's prescription. Types of medications that are used for back pain include:
  • Analgesics
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Other medications.
Analgesic medications are specifically designed to relieve pain. Analgesics include:
  • Topical analgesics include Zostrix®, Icy Hot®, and Ben Gay®.
Aspirin and acetaminophen are the most commonly used analgesics, and narcotics should only be used for a short time for severe pain or pain after surgery. People with muscular back pain or arthritis pain that is not relieved by medications may find topical analgesics to be helpful. These creams, ointments, and salves are rubbed directly onto the skin over the site of the pain.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are drugs that are used to relieve both pain and inflammation. NSAIDs include nonprescription products such as:
More than a dozen other NSAIDs, including a subclass of NSAIDs called COX-2 inhibitors, are available only with a prescription. Some examples include:
All NSAIDs work by blocking substances called prostaglandins, which contribute to inflammation and pain. However, each NSAID is a different chemical, and each has a slightly different effect on the body. Side effects of all NSAIDs can include:
However, COX-2 inhibitors are designed to cause fewer stomach ulcers. For unknown reasons, some people seem to respond better to one NSAID than another. It is important to work with your doctor to choose the NSAID that is safest and most effective for you.
Key information about NSAIDs includes:
  • NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation or, less often, they can affect kidney function.
  • The longer a person uses NSAIDs, the more likely he or she is to have side effects, ranging from mild to serious.
  • Many other drugs cannot be taken when a patient is being treated with NSAIDs because NSAIDs alter the way the body uses or eliminates these other drugs. Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking NSAIDs.
  • NSAIDs sometimes are associated with serious gastrointestinal problems, including ulcers, bleeding, and perforation of the stomach or intestine. People over age 65 and those with any history of ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding should use NSAIDs with caution.
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