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Back pain is a common type of pain, affecting eight out of ten people at some point in their lives. It is a significant cause of disability worldwide. Back pain may range from a constant, dull ache to sharp, sudden pain. Acute back pain occurs suddenly and often lasts from a few days to a few weeks. You are said to have chronic back pain if your pain lasts for more than four months.
Back pain is responsible for more than 260 million lost workdays in a year, i.e., two workdays for each full-time worker in the US. Experts estimate that up to 85% of the population will probably experience back pain at some point in their lives.
Fortunately, you can take measures to deal with most back pain episodes. If you have ever had back pain, you might have scanned the shelves of your local pharmacy or filled a prescription from your doctor. Although pain medications can not heal a back injury, they can relieve pain to some extent. But not all medicines for back pain are created equal. There are multiple types and categories of medications for back pain, depending on how long you have had them, how severe your symptoms are, where they are located, and the side effects that you can tolerate.
This blog discusses some of the common medications for back pain, their related side effects, withdrawal symptoms (if any), and treatments in case you get addicted to them. You may buy these medications online from Paxiful.com, which is a trusted online drugstore. Please read the blog to learn more about back pain medicines.
The first medication of choice for many people with back pain is a nonsteroidal, OTC anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), like naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Motrin). These are milder analgesics and are usually the first tier of treatment. Tylenol (acetaminophen), though not a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, is also a common OTC pain reliever. There are also prescription-only NSAIDs, like diclofenac (Voltaren), celecoxib (Celebrex), nabumetone (Relafen), and meloxicam (Mobic).
Although anti-inflammatory medications are on the milder side of the pain relief spectrum, they can still cause some side effects, mainly if you take these medications at higher doses for an extended period. NSAID side effects may include ulcers, gastrointestinal problems, and kidney damage, while acetaminophen may damage your liver.
If prescription NSAIDs and OTC painkillers can not relieve your back pain, your doctor can suggest adding a muscle relaxant.
These may include:
These medications help relieve the muscle spasms that cause your back pain. Muscle relaxant pills can be helpful for acute injuries (like straining your back while playing basketball).
The most common side effects of muscle relaxants are drowsiness and dizziness. These medications can be quite sedating. If you have never tried muscle relaxants before, do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how these drugs affect you.
For some patients, muscle relaxants and NSAIDs are not enough. People with chronic, long-lasting back pain, especially after multiple surgeries, are sometimes prescribed narcotic or opioid medications. Opioids work on pain receptors in the nerve cells and brain to relieve pain. Most people start with shorter-acting, milder opioids like Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) and Tylenol with Codeine.
The common side effects of opioids are:
Like anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroids can also reduce inflammation and relieve pain. They can be taken either via injection into your back or orally. A short course of steroids could even be tried before opioids when someone has had severe back pain for several weeks without relief from muscle relaxants and NSAIDs. This might cause a reduction in inflammation before it becomes chronic.
Side effects of excessive steroid use damage the body’s ability to process blood sugar, increased appetite leading to weight gain, indigestion or heartburn, changes in mood or behavior, and difficulty sleeping.
Why would you take an anti-seizure drug or an antidepressant for your back pain? Because they are effective for a specific type of pain, i.e., the kind induced by nerve problems. Certain anti-seizure medications, like Neurontin (gabapentin) or Lyrica (pregabalin), and antidepressants, such as Cymbalta (duloxetine), are beneficial for neurological problems. Another type of antidepressant, called tricyclics, including nortriptyline (Pamelor) and amitriptyline (Elavil), also can be prescribed to manage severe back pain. So if you’ve pinched a nerve in your back, with pain radiating down your leg, one of these medications can be helpful to quiet the nerve irritation and relieve the tingling, numbness, and burning pain that is usually involved.
Though they vary somewhat, both these medications have pretty much the same list of side effects that include:
All the back pain medications mentioned above alter your brain by creating artificial endorphins. Besides relieving pain, these endorphins also make you feel good. Too much of these drugs causes your brain to rely on these artificial endorphins. Once the brain does this, it may stop producing its own endorphins. The longer you use these pain drugs, the more likely this will happen. In other words, you develop drug dependence because the way your body works has changed due to using the drugs for an extended time. When you stop using these medications, these changes cause you to experience withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms may be severe or mild and can include:
Addiction treatment is different for each individual. The main objective of the treatment is to help one stop using the drug. Buprenorphine and methadone help reduce withdrawal symptoms by targeting the same centers in the brain that these medications target. Only they don’t make you feel high. They help restore balance to the brain and allow it to heal.
You may also require help with your emotional or mental addiction to pain medications. Behavioral treatments may help you learn techniques to manage depression. These treatments also help you avoid these drugs and deal with cravings. Behavioral treatments include family or group counseling, individual counseling, and cognitive therapy.
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