Types of pain medication

If you’ve ever had a sore back or a nagging headache, you’ve probably turned to some form of pain medication for relief.

Pain medication can either be prescribed by a doctor or purchased over the counter at a pharmacy. These medications are available in a range of dosages and often in pill form. Pain medication also comes in the form of topical creams or sprays that are applied to the skin to relieve pain from sore muscles, arthritic pain and other local pain.

Over-the-counter medication

Over-the-counter medication is medication that can be purchased without a prescription. These are widely used to treat minor aches and pains in the short term. Three of the most common forms of over-the-counter pain medication are acetaminophen, aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

  • Acetaminophen. Reduces pain and fever but is not a strong anti-inflammatory. Acetaminophen is usually not recommended for arthritis of the spine or other forms of osteoarthritis, but is effective against mild neck and back pain. Studies have shown that acetaminophen, when used in the correct dose, is among the safest pain medications available. Using more than the recommended dosage of acetaminophen is potentially very dangerous and can cause irreversible liver damage.
  • Aspirin. Relieves inflammation and pain by blocking the substances that cause them. A related side effect of aspirin is that it also blocks the production of the protective mucus lining of the stomach. This results in the stomach issues many associate with aspirin.
  • NSAIDs. The most common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) is ibuprofen. NSAIDs are effective in combating inflammation, fever and other pains, but are not recommended for long-term use because they can disrupt kidney function, potentially leading to permanent damage. Common examples of NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.

To ensure the correct medication and dosage, always consult with your doctor when taking any form of medication to relieve neck or back pain.

Prescription medication

Prescription pain medication refers to medication that can only be purchased with the consent of a physician. Corticosteroids, opioids, and some antidepressants are all common forms of prescription medications that are often effective in treating severe pain, but also carry significant potential side effects.

Certain prescription medications can become habit-forming, such as morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine, so it is extremely important to only take the recommended dosage.

More information about treatment

To learn more about the various pain medications currently available, speak with your physician or pharmacist. Pain medication can provide the relief you require, but be sure you fully understand the benefits and risks before beginning any treatment.

If a doctor-prescribed course of conservative treatments, including pain medication, has not returned you to the quality of life you expect and you’re starting to consider spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine procedures, offering our patients a shorter recovery time and less risk of complication.^

We can offer a free review of your MRI or CT scan* to help you find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.