What You Need to Know About Strong Painkillers For Back Pain

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Here at Kaly, we deeply understand how debilitating chronic back pain can be. 

The aches, stiffness, and soreness can severely impact your quality of life, making it difficult to work, exercise, and enjoy activities. While there are many options for managing back pain, we know that sometimes stronger prescription medications are necessary to provide true relief.

If you’re suffering from moderate to severe chronic back pain that has not responded to other treatments, it may be time to explore using strong painkillers under your doctor’s supervision.

What are the Benefits of Short-Term Strong Painkiller Use?

When over-the-counter medications are not enough, prescription strong painkillers can provide much-needed pain relief, especially in the short term. 

The major benefit is significant reduction or resolution of severe, chronic back pain so you can regain mobility and improve your functioning. Other advantages include:

  • Fewer restrictions on work, exercise, travel, and daily activities
  • Improved sleep without pain disruption
  • Decreased stiffness and muscle spasms
  • Temporary pain relief while pursuing long-term solutions

Our medical experts emphasize that strong prescription painkillers play an important role for some patients. However, they should be used cautiously under medical supervision due to potential side effects and risks.

Tips for Safe and Responsible Use of Strong Painkillers for Back Pain

doctor and patient consultation on back pain

If you and your doctor determine that a strong painkiller is appropriate for your situation, be sure to use it safely and responsibly:

  • Take exact dosage as prescribed, no more or less
  • Do not mix with alcohol, sedatives, or other medications without approval
  • Begin with lower strengths first before progressing if needed
  • Store securely to prevent misuse by family members
  • Dispose of unused pills properly through take-back programs
  • Never share your medications with others
  • Watch for signs of dependence and addiction; seek help if needed

Strong Painkillers for Back Pain FAQs

Why use strong painkillers for back pain?

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit a doctor, miss work, and become disabled. In fact, 80% of Americans experience back pain at some point in their lives. The causes can range from muscle strain to arthritis to injury. 

While milder cases can be managed with rest, ice, heat, OTC pain relievers, and exercise, severe or chronic back pain may call for prescription strength painkillers

What are the best painkillers for back pain?

For mild to moderate back pain, over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) are usually the first line of defense. They reduce inflammation and provide analgesic pain relief. 

For short term use, side effects are typically minimal, although long-term use can lead to stomach ulcers, bleeding, kidney problems, and heart issues.

For severe chronic back pain, prescription opioid painkillers may be recommended. These include hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), morphine, codeine, fentanyl patches, and methadone. 

While very effective, they come with substantial risks like tolerance, dependence, addiction, overdose, and withdrawal. Due to the opioid epidemic, doctors are being more selective about prescribing opioids for pain management.

Other prescription options for back pain are muscle relaxers like cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) and targeted injections like epidural steroid injections. Topical NSAID creams and capsaicin cream can also provide localized relief.

Choosing the right painkiller depends on the type and severity of your back pain as well as your medical history. Your doctor will help select the most appropriate option with the fewest risks.

The options for pain management with back pain are quite varied. To help synthesize and visualize this information, the table below provides a summary of the various types of painkillers, their typical uses, and potential side effects. This table can serve as a guide, but remember that the best painkiller for back pain depends on the individual’s specific condition and medical history.

Painkiller TypeExamplesTypical UsePotential Side Effects
Over-the-counter NSAIDsIbuprofen (Advil, Motrin), Naproxen (Aleve)Mild to moderate back painStomach ulcers, bleeding, kidney problems, heart issues (with long-term use)
Prescription OpioidsHydrocodone (Vicodin), Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), Morphine, Codeine, Fentanyl patches, MethadoneSevere chronic back painTolerance, dependence, addiction, overdose, withdrawal
Muscle RelaxersCyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)Severe back pain or muscle spasmsDrowsiness, dry mouth, urinary retention
Targeted InjectionsEpidural steroid injectionsChronic back pain with inflammationLocal infection, bleeding, nerve damage
Topical CreamsNSAID creams, Capsaicin creamLocalized back painSkin irritation, burning sensation

What are the risks and side effects of strong painkillers?

All medications come with some risks. With strong prescription painkillers, it is essential to be aware of the potential adverse effects:

NSAIDs: stomach ulcers, bleeding, kidney impairment, increased blood pressure, fluid retention. Avoid it if you have stomach issues, kidney disease, or heart failure.

Opioids: fatigue, constipation, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, slowed breathing, dangerous interactions with other drugs. High risks of dependence, tolerance, addiction, overdose and withdrawal.

Muscle relaxers: dizziness, drowsiness, clumsiness, impaired concentration. Do not mix with alcohol or drive while taking.

Topical NSAIDs: skin irritation, itching, stinging. Use cautiously if you have skin conditions.

Never combine prescription painkillers with alcohol, sedatives, or sleep aids, as this increases the risk of overdose. Also be mindful of interactions with any other medications you take. 

When should you avoid using strong painkillers?

There are certain conditions and circumstances where caution is warranted when using strong painkillers:

  • Kidney or liver disease: Increased risk of complications
  • Heart problems: Can exacerbate conditions like high blood pressure
  • History of ulcers or GI bleeding: NSAIDs could further damage stomach lining
  • Asthma: NSAIDs may induce attacks in those with aspirin-sensitive asthma
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Most painkillers pose risk to the fetus or baby
  • Interactions with other meds like blood thinners, antidepressants, hypoglycemics
  • Alcohol use disorder: Painkillers dangerously react with alcohol

Finding Relief from Chronic Back Pain: The Role of Strong Painkillers

doctor gives prescription to her patient for back pain relief

At Kaly, we care deeply about your health and wellbeing. We recommend exhausting other back pain management approaches first before resorting to prescription painkillers. But we also want you to have access to all the medically appropriate tools for relief. Talk to one of our providers to learn if strong painkillers are right for you.