Pain Management Medications

by Peter on May 27, 2010

Patients frequently ask me if they should be taking any medication for their back pain. Firstly, I am not a physician and this should be discussed with your Doctor. However there are many over-the-counter (OTC) drugs available, and knowing which ones to take and why are sometimes confusing.

Most drugs fall into two categories, anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxants. The non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are probably the most widely use for pain management.

Pain Management

Tylenol – Acetaminophen is marketed under many popular brand names, and the most common we have in Canada is Tylenol. For back pain this is a very common (OTC) remedy taken by millions of patients. Acetaminophen is used as a pain reliever for mild to moderate symptoms from a variety of causes. Acetaminophen is the most popular pain reliever used worldwide. It is also known for being the choice of patients who have sensitivity to aspirin.

Advil, Motrin or Aleve – These are the most common brand names for OTC Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen for back pain is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) often taken by patients with chronic pain symptoms. Ibuprofen is a time tested drug used for a variety of painful syndromes including arthritis, headache and fever. While over the counter versions of the drug are considered quite safe; they and their prescription strength relatives are not without side effects and risks. Make sure to consult your doctor prior to beginning any long term use of Ibuprofen.

Muscle Relaxants

Robaxacet – Robaxacet is the common name for Robaxin or Methocarbamol is a skeletal muscle relaxant used for relieving pain or discomfort due to strains and sprains.   It is a drug that combines a muscle relaxant with a pain reliever and can be an effective way of interrupting the pain cycle. If you think this medication might help you cope with your back pain, speak with your doctor or pharmacist about what your options are.

Flexeril – This is a muscle relaxant. It works by blocking nerve impulses (or pain sensations) that are sent to your brain. Flexeril is used together with rest and physical therapy to treat skeletal muscle conditions such as pain or injury.

Celebrex – The common name for Celecoxib. It is used for alleviating pain, fever, swelling and tenderness due to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Celebrex does not prevent the progression of either type of arthritis, however, it reduces the signs of arthritis. It also provides relief from acute pain as well as pain of menstrual cramps (primary dysmenorrhea).

Muscle relaxants work quite well for relieving muscle pain due to injuries, but are not effective for other types of pain. Some people feel drowsy, dizzy, confused, lightheaded, or less alert when using muscle relaxants drugs. These drugs may also cause blurred vision, clumsiness, or unsteadiness.
Because muscle relaxants work on the central nervous system, they may add to the effects of alcohol and other drugs that slow down the central nervous system. They may also add to the effects of anesthetics, including those used for dental procedures. For this reason, anyone who takes these drugs should not drive, operate machinery, or do anything else that might be dangerous until they have found out how the drugs affect them.
Before using muscle relaxants or pain killers, people with any of these medical problems should make sure their physicians are aware of their conditions:

  • Kidney disease
  • Heart or blood vessel disease or recent heart attack
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Overactive thyroid gland
  • Hepatitis or other liver disease
  • Current or past alcohol or drug abuse
  • Current or past blood disease caused by an allergy or a reaction to another drug
  • Glaucoma
  • Problems with urination.

Taking muscle relaxants and pain killers with certain other drugs may affect the way the drugs work or may increase the chance of side effects.
Please consult your physician before taking any drugs. And be sure to investigate further the origin of your pain or muscle spasm. No sense taking medication for a problem that can be treated by your health care provider.
If you have any questions of comment, please do not hesitate to contact me.

In Health,

Peter Roach, RMT, CNMT, Laser Therapist

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