Drugs, Medications, and Injections for Upper Back Pain

Reviewed by Jason M. Highsmith, MD

Your upper back pain may require medications and / or spinal injections to reduce the pain. The doctor will need to make a diagnosis in order to best and most effectively treat your pain. Is it caused by a muscle problem? Is there a problem with your spinal joints? Is there inflammation?

With that information, the doctor can better prescribe medications or spinal injections. Medications and injections should always be part of a larger treatment plan that addresses the entire problem. Because medications and injections just treat the pain—and not the underlying cause of the pain—you need to use other treatment options to treat what's causing the pain.

The goal of medications and injections is to relieve your upper back pain enough so that you can go about your daily life and get other treatments for the underlying cause (eg, physical therapy).

There's a progression to medications and injections: You don't start with the highest dose of the strongest medicine. Instead, you'll probably start with over-the-counter medications. If those work to sufficiently relieve your pain, great. If they don't, the doctor may prescribe something stronger.

Injections are typically used as the last option because they use very powerful medications.

Over-the-Counter Medications for Upper Back Pain

Prescription Medications for Back Pain
If an over-the-counter medication doesn't work to relieve your upper back pain, the doctor may prescribe something stronger. Some possibilities for upper back pain are:

Medication Warning
As with all medications, you must follow your doctor's advice precisely. Never mix over-the-counter and prescribed drugs without consulting your doctor. Also, as your doctor decides what to prescribe, be sure to tell him or her if you're using any herbal supplements, in addition to any other prescription medications you're on.

Spinal Injections for Upper Back Pain
Injections are always used in conjunction with an exercise or physical therapy program. They should provide long-lasting pain relief so that you can work on strengthening your back and shoulder muscles to prevent recurrences of upper back pain.

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Physical Therapy to Relieve Upper Back Pain