Opioid pain medication — application and risks

Many patients with chronic neck and back pain may find pain relief through prescription pain medication after consulting a physician. Pain medication is often used in conjunction with other forms of treatment, such as physical therapy, weight loss and lifestyle changes, chiropractic care and postoperative care. The assistance of pain medication can increase a patient’s pain relief and help reduce the other symptoms associated with many spine conditions, such as pain, numbness or tingling in the extremities.

A common class of pain medication prescribed by physicians to treat neck and back pain is opioids. Opioids work effectively by binding to pain signal receptors found on the spinal cord and brain stem and interfering with the transmission of pain signals. If your spine condition is causing the compression of a nerve root in the spinal canal, the opioids will stop the pain signal from being sent from the impacted nerve root to the brain. Therefore, you will not feel the sensation of pain in that area of the spine. Two examples of opioids include morphine and codeine.

While opioids are extremely effective in relieving pain and symptoms associated with various spine conditions, there are also many side effects that can be associated with this medication. We encourage each patient to thoroughly research each medication option before moving forward with a prescription treatment. If you have questions, you can also contact our dedicated team to discuss the best treatment option for your needs.

Proper application of opioids

When properly used, opioids are one of the most powerful types of pain medication available. In fact, doctors often prescribe opioids to patients following a major operation or to manage cancer pain. Opioids also may be prescribed to patients suffering from major back or neck pain, which can be caused by a pinched nerve, herniated disc or osteoarthritis. Although this is usually reserved for unique circumstances where a patient hasn’t responded to other conservative treatment and pain is excruciating.

Your physician will determine the dosage of opioids you should take depending on the severity of your condition. You must follow your physician’s instructions when taking this medication. Because of the strength of most opioid prescriptions, overdose of this medication could result in serious risks or even death.

Risks of opioids

While opioids can be an effective way to treat back pain, they do come with certain risk factors. One of the most common risks associated with opioid medication is the addiction factor. Patients risk becoming addicted to this medication if it is prescribed for too long. That is why it is important to continue to seek other treatment options while taking opioid medication to find a lasting solution for your spine condition.

Like most medication, opioids carry the risk of additional side effects, such as:

  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation


If you are taking pain medication for your chronic neck or back pain and are searching for an alternative treatment option, please contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective treatment alternative to traditional open back surgery.^ Since 2005 we’ve helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from neck or back pain.

We’re happy to provide a free MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.