What is a Good Pain Medication for Back Pain?



Back pain is an all-too-common complaint among adults of all ages. It can vary from a mild ache to throbbing pain that radiates through the back and legs. Treating back pain becomes even more challenging when the cause is disputed or unknown.

Many people find relief from their back pain with medication but finding the right one can be difficult due to a large number of options available. This guide will provide an overview of available medical products, their uses, and their side effects so that you have the information you need to make a well-informed decision about which type of medication might be best suited for your needs.

Types of Pain Medications

When it comes to treating back pain, there are a number of different pain medications available to help manage symptoms. These medications can range from over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen to opioid painkillers such as codeine and morphine.

In this article, we’ll discuss the various types of medications available to help alleviate back pain:

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are prescription medications used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. They can be taken orally or can be applied to the skin. NSAIDs work by blocking chemical messengers that cause pain and swelling in the body, such as prostaglandin.

Commonly prescribed NSAIDs for back pain include naproxen, ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxib, and meloxicam.

NSAIDs are generally considered safe and effective for relieving most types of back pain caused by inflammatory conditions including sprains, strains, and some types of arthritis. However, it’s important to talk with your doctor before taking any medications because they may have potential side effects including stomach upsets, fluid retention in your legs or kidneys, and increased risk of heart attack or stroke when taken long-term. Always make sure your doctor is aware of any other drugs you’re taking so they can adjust your treatment appropriately.


Opioids, or narcotic analgesics, are medications prescribed to reduce moderate to severe pain. They are commonly used in cases of severe or chronic pain, such as lower back pain. Opioids work by interacting with opioid receptors located throughout the body, resulting in the sensation of pain relief. Common opioids prescribed for back pain include oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and codeine.

While effective at treating back pain, opioids have a high risk of addiction and abuse. The risk is increased when long-lasting formulations are used and especially when combined with other drugs such as alcohol or benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety medicines). It is important to carefully follow your doctor’s instructions while taking an opioid medication and to only take the dosage indicated on the label – do not exceed it.

In some cases, especially those involving moderate chronic discomfort rather than severe short-term agony, nonaddictive alternatives are more suitable for reducing pain—including over-the-counter (OTC) medications like ibuprofen and naproxen combined with inactive ingredients like caffeine or menthol. Other nonopioid options include:

  • Muscle relaxants (for spasm)
  • Antidepressant medications (which change brain chemistry)
  • Anticonvulsants used for nerve—rather than muscle—pain relief
  • Topical preparations containing lidocaine
  • Injection treatments like cortisone shots
  • Physical therapy including exercise and massage.

Muscle Relaxants

When dealing with chronic and severe back pain, muscle relaxants may be prescribed as an effective treatment. These types of medications help to alleviate discomfort in the muscles by reducing inflammation or relaxing contracted muscles. Common brands of muscle relaxants used to treat back pain include Skelaxin, Zanaflex, Flexeril, Robaxin, and Soma.

It is important to note that muscle relaxants can have side effects, such as drowsiness or dizziness that could further impede your ability to function normally. Therefore it is generally recommended that you carefully read the instructions for use before taking any medication and consider speaking to your doctor before making a decision about treatment.


Corticosteroids are often used as a type of pain medication to reduce inflammation and can help provide relief for back pain caused by some forms of arthritis. Corticosteroids may be injected directly into the spine or taken orally in pill form. These medications work by reducing the body’s natural inflammatory response.

Corticosteroids can be very effective in providing short-term relief from pain, but their long-term use is controversial due to the potential for serious side effects such as fluid retention, impaired growth, slowed wound healing, and increased risk of infections. Before taking a corticosteroid medication, it’s important to talk with a doctor about the potential risks and benefits of your situation.


Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to people who suffer from chronic back pain. These medications can help reduce the sensation of pain and provide a sense of relief, most commonly by increasing endorphin levels in the body. It is important to note that these types of medications are not considered painkillers, but rather reduce the sensation of discomfort until the underlying cause of back pain can be properly addressed and a long-term solution implemented.

Common types of antidepressant medications used to treat chronic back pain include:

  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs): This type of medication was originally used as an antidepressant, but is now being increasingly prescribed for individuals suffering from severe chronic back pain due to nerve damage or spinal degeneration. Examples include amitriptyline (Elavil), imipramine (Tofranil), and nortriptyline (Pamelor).
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): These drugs work by targeting neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically serotonin and norepinephrine. Common SSRI medications used to treat chronic back pain include citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): These medications also target serotonin and norepinephrine, however, they work differently than SSRIs and may be more effective for some patients. Common SNRI drugs used to treat back pain are duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor XR).

Benefits and Risks

When you suffer from chronic or acute back pain, it can be difficult to know what kind of pain relief to use. Pain medications can be an effective way to manage your pain, but it is important to be aware of the risks and benefits associated with them.

In this article, we will discuss the various benefits and risks associated with using pain medications for back pain relief:


When it comes to treating pain, the use of the right medicine is essential to relieving both symptoms and causes. One of the most recommended drugs for moderate to severe back pain is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). While this type of medication is quite effective when treating back pain, there are also potential risks associated with taking it that should not be overlooked.

The obvious benefit of using an NSAID for back pain is that it can reduce discomfort and inflammation and help improve overall mobility. This type of medication works by blocking certain enzymes in the body that cause inflammation and pain, which can provide quick relief from discomfort. Additionally, studies have shown that these medications can even help prevent further damage to damaged tissue in the back as they reduce swelling and inflammation.

Although NSAIDs may help you manage your symptoms, they also carry potential risks if taken in large doses or over extended periods of time. Because NSAIDs block certain enzymes that are involved with healing processes within the body, taking them long-term or in large amounts could ultimately slow down the healing process. Additionally, if taken over a long period of time at high doses, NSAIDs can increase your risk of ulcers and other stomach-related side effects. It is important to talk with your healthcare professional who can provide advice on when to take medication as well as discuss any potential side effects prior to using these drugs for managing your back pain.


When treating back pain with pain medications, there are certain risks that must be taken into consideration. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen carry certain risks that may not be applicable to prescription opioids.

The first risk of using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, is the potential to cause stomach upset or gastrointestinal bleeding, especially in people with a history of ulcers. Acetaminophen also carries risks of liver toxicity if it is used too frequently or in excessive doses.

Prescription opioids also come with a number of possible side effects, including:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Use of these medications may also lead to dependence on the abuse or misuse of the drug. It’s important to speak to your doctor about potential side effects before starting any new medication for back pain relief. In addition, individuals using prescription opioids should do so only under their doctor’s supervision and should not share their medication with anyone else.

Best Practices for Taking Pain Medications

Pain medications like anti-inflammatories and narcotics are used to relieve back pain. But it is important to follow the best practices for taking these medications in order to avoid any unwanted side effects. This section will discuss how to safely take pain medications for back pain and the potential risks associated with it.

Follow your doctor’s instructions

When taking pain medications, it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. This includes consulting your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications and understanding the possible side effects of the medication you are prescribed. Your doctor will provide general advice about how best to take the medication, as well as a caution about any lifestyle adjustments that may be necessary to ensure you get the optimum benefit from your medication.

It is essential to take all pain medications as recommended by your doctor. Normal dosage amounts and schedules should be followed in order to have an expected result. It is also important to not overuse the medication or stop taking it without the consent of your healthcare provider. This could result in suboptimal results or withdrawal symptoms if discontinued too quickly.

Your pain specialists may recommend any combination of short-term and long-term prescription drugs depending on your specific issues, such as anti-inflammatory agents, opioids, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants for more severe cases. Oral medications can often be combined with topical creams or patches for optimal results with fewer side effects than oral use alone might pose. In some cases, injections may be used if need be; typically these injections contain local anesthetic or corticosteroids and provide temporary relief from discomfort in a localized area of the body.

Take the lowest dose possible

When taking pain medications, it is important to take the lowest dose possible for the shortest duration of time in order to minimize side effects and ensure effective pain management. To ensure safety when taking pain medications, here are some best practices to follow:

  1. Start with the lowest dose, and be aware that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Pain levels vary from person to person and over time, so medication doses should also be adjusted regularly according to effectiveness and/or any side effects.
  2. Talk to your healthcare provider about other medications you are taking that may interact with your chosen pain medication. It is best practice to bring a list of all medications (including over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen) when visiting your doctor or pharmacist in order to identify any potential interactions or side effects you should be aware of prior to beginning a new medication regimen.
  3. Follow all instructions for use of the medication given by your doctor or pharmacist. This includes directions about how often a medicine should be taken (frequency) and how much should be taken (dosage).
  4. Monitor for signs of opioid overdose such as slow breathing, cold and clammy skin, confusion, difficulty talking or walking, excessive sleepiness, or coma. If any of these signs are observed then medical help should be sought immediately by calling 911 or poison control at 1–800–222–1222.
  5. Do not share prescription drugs with anyone else – this increases the temptation for misuse and can lead to addiction or further health complications due to interactions between different prescription drugs being mixed together without medical supervision.

Monitor your symptoms

When taking any medication, it is important to monitor your symptoms carefully. If you are experiencing chronic pain or recurring bouts of back pain, keep a log of your symptoms and how they change over time. This will help you identify patterns and provide important information to your doctor as they determine the best treatment plan.

Additionally, pay attention to any side effects associated with the medications you are taking and follow your doctor’s instructions for use. This is especially important when taking opioids, as these medications are potent and can pose potentially serious health risks if used improperly.

Finally, always alert your doctor if you feel the medication isn’t working or is causing adverse reactions. They may be able to offer alternative therapies or recommend other types of medication that may be more effective in treating your condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen, muscle relaxants, physical therapy, and occasionally, steroids may be prescribed to help with low back pain. Other treatments may include acetaminophen, massage, chiropractic care, acupuncture, yoga, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

The best over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for back pain are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen (Aleve). Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is also an effective OTC medicine for back pain relief. Muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) may also be used to help relieve muscle spasms related to back pain.

The best muscle relaxant for low back pain will depend on the individual and the severity of the pain. Some commonly prescribed muscle relaxants for low back pain include cyclobenzaprine, tizanidine, diazepam, and baclofen. Your doctor can best advise you on which muscle relaxant is best for you.

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In conclusion, choosing the right medication for back pain depends on the individual, their medical history, and preferences. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen are often recommended as a first line of treatment, but other medications may be needed for more severe or chronic pain.

Before making any changes to your medication or starting any new regimen, it is important to consult a doctor to discuss your options. The doctor will be able to provide an individualized plan of care that takes into consideration factors like allergies and other existing conditions.

Regardless of which medication you ultimately choose, it’s important to pay attention to the dosage instructions and stay in communication with your doctor in order to ensure the best treatment outcome possible.

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