Medications for Low Back Pain and Sciatica

The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included. Ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.Medications are used to control symptoms of low back pain and sciatica. The medications are listed by their generic name.

Prescription Medications

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
  • Naproxen sodium
  • Ibuprofen
  • Diclofenac sodium
  • Celecoxib
  • Meloxicam
Analgesics (pain medication)
  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
Antidepressants
  • Fluoxetine
  • Duloxetine
  • Amitriptyline
Muscle relaxants
  • Cyclobenzaprine
  • Diazepam

Over-the-Counter Medications

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
  • Naproxen sodium
  • Ibuprofen
Analgesics (pain medication)
  • Acetaminophen
  • Aspirin

Prescription Medications

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)Common names include:
  • Naproxen sodium
  • Ibuprofen
  • Diclofenac sodium
  • Celecoxib
  • Meloxicam
These drugs work to control inflammation, which produces pain. Some prescription NSAIDs are higher doses of the same NSAIDs that are available without a prescription.Possible side effects include:
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Stomach upset
  • Fluid retention
  • Liver damage
Some prescription NSAIDs (such as, celecoxib, meloxicam) have been associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Other studies show that some NSAIDs may cause complications in patients recovering from stroke, heart attacks, or open heart surgery. NSAIDs can also interfere with the actions of other drugs. Be certain your physician is aware of all drugs you take, including herbs and supplements (even if you only take these occasionally).AnalgesicsCommon names include:
  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
Prescription pain pills may be prescribed short-term for severe pain.Possible side effects include:
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Decreased breathing
AntidepressantsCommon names include:
  • Fluoxetine
  • Duloxetine
  • Amitriptyline
Antidepressants may also be prescribed for chronic low back pain.Possible side effects include:
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness when standing
Do not stop taking these drugs without checking with your doctor.Muscle RelaxantsCommon names include:
  • Cyclobenzaprine
  • Diazepam
Muscle relaxants help calm muscle spasms. They may be ordered for short-term pain relief.Possible side effects include:
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness

Over-the-Counter Medications

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)Common names include:
  • Naproxen sodium
  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin
These drugs work to control inflammation, which produces pain.Possible side effects include:
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Stomach upset
  • Liver damage
  • Fluid retention
  • Interaction with other drugs, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, blood thinners, and drugs to treat hypertension. Check with your physician to be certain that NSAIDs will not interact with other drugs you might be taking.
AcetaminophenAcetaminophen relieves pain through different biological mechanisms. It is not an NSAID. It can cause or exacerbate liver problems if recommended doses are exceeded. Do not drink alcohol while taking this drug. Do not take more than the recommended dose. Acetaminophen is unlikely to cause side effects associated with other pain medications such as gastrointestinal upset, fluid retention, and constipation.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if you experience these symptoms:
  • Pain that doesn't improve, or worsens, with rest
  • Pain that is severe or that has gotten dramatically worse
  • Progressive weakness in a leg or foot
  • Difficulty walking, standing, or moving
  • Numbness in the genital or rectal area
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Burning or difficulty with urination
  • Fever, unexplained weight loss, or other signs of illness

Special Considerations

Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:
  • Take them as directed—not more, not less, not at a different time.
  • Do not stop taking them without consulting your doctor.
  • Don’t share them with anyone else.
  • Know what effects and side effects to expect. Report them to your doctor.
  • If you are taking more than one drug, even if it is over the counter, be sure to check with a physician or pharmacist about drug interactions.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.

References

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