The lidocaine patch 5%, which is known under the brand name Lidoderm, is a prescription-only topical local anesthetic. Unlike taking an oral pill or administering a drug via injection, this prescription-strength medication is infused into a patch that adheres to your skin. The medication then enters your body through your skin, where it reduces pain by blocking nerve signals. This product may help alleviate nerve-related chronic back and neck pain.
Lidoderm is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is a shingles complication. As such, using this product to treat neuropathic, or nerve-related, back pain is considered an off-label use.
Off-label means a product, medication, or device is used outside the FDA indication. This may make you unsure about using Lidoderm patches for back pain, but it’s not as concerning as it sounds. Aspirin is a good example to illustrate the safety of off-label use. It was initially approved to treat pain, but evidence shows aspirin also helps prevent cardiovascular problems. When doctors recommend aspirin to patients for heart health that is considered off-label use.
While Lidoderm is not indicated for neuropathic spine pain, evidence has shown the patches may reduce low back pain and pain from osteoarthritis, though your doctor may recommend them for other spinal conditions.
Before using Lidoderm patches to ease your spine pain, talk to your doctor about whether this is a safe and smart option for you.
How Lidoderm Patches May Relieve Back Pain
Lidoderm patches contain lidocaine, a local numbing agent. When the patch is adhered to your body, the lidocaine is absorbed through your skin. Because only a fraction of the lidocaine is absorbed, you won’t feel numb or a loss of feeling. Most people begin to feel the effects of the patch within a few hours of application.
Researchers believe the patch relieves pain by blocking nerve signals using its analgesic effect in the area directly under the patch.
Safely Using Lidoderm Patches
If you suffer from nerve-related chronic back pain, your doctor may prescribe Lidoderm patches in addition to other medications (such as an anticonvulsant or antidepressant) to help you manage your neuropathic pain and improve function in your daily life. Make sure you discuss every medication and supplement (even OTC ones) with your doctor to help prevent any adverse drug interactions.
Lidoderm patches should be used on healthy skin, so avoid placing the patches on blistered or cut skin. Using a patch on broken skin can affect how much of the medication is absorbed.
Lidocaine can be toxic when absorbed in high amounts, so only wear a maximum of 3 patches at a time for 12 hours, followed by a 12-hour break from wearing a patch.
Milder side effects of Lidoderm patches include irritation, redness, or swelling at the site of the patch.
The best way to ensure you safely use Lidoderm patches is to have an open discussion with your doctor or pharmacist. Lidoderm patches may provide relief of nerve-related chronic back pain, but they are not without risks. Talk to your health care provider about how these topical medications can be a beneficial addition your chronic pain treatment plan.