For many back injuries and spine conditions, taking medication to help control the pain represents one element of treatment. Although medication alone may be tried first, more aggressive treatments are often needed as well. Doctors often prescribe medication in conjunction with a physical therapy regimen. The medication treats the pain, while the physical therapy focuses on strengthening muscles and increasing flexibility, both of which will help to prevent (re)injury.
Over-the-counter pain medications are often sufficient in relieving pain. Two types of non-prescription medications -- acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) -- are recommended. Narcotic pain medications and muscle relaxants are often prescribed for short periods of time, since there is risk of addiction. Antidepressants can also help relieve nerve-related pain.
Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Taking medication may ease your pain, but does not necessarily treat the underlying problem. Reducing pain can, however, also give your body time to heal. Unless you are already under a physician’s care, you should see a doctor whenever back pain fails to improve within three days.
Since drug interactions can be serious and potentially fatal, be sure to let your doctor know if you are taking any other medications.
Remember the following when taking pain medication:
- Many pain medications contain Tylenol® (acetaminophen). Pharmacists recommend that acetaminophen intake should be limited to no more than 2,000mg (2grams) in 24 hours. Liver damage can occur when these amounts are exceeded. Tylenol may also be found in other over the counter medications such as cough and cold medications.
- Never mix any prescription medication with alcohol.
- Do not drive motorized vehicles while taking prescription medication as they may cause drowsiness.
- Pain medication can be very constipating. To avoid this, eat a well-balanced diet including fresh fruits, raw vegetables, and other fiber-rich foods. Drink 6-8 large glasses of water per day.
- Surgical patients should refer to constipation in the post-operative instruction section.