Drugs and Medications Center

In this Drugs and Medication Center for neck and back disorders, you can learn about different types of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications your doctor may recommend and/or prescribe to reduce pain and other symptoms associated with your spinal disorder. Certain drugs are used to treat specific types of pain and its causes, such as inflammation or muscle spasms.
Female hand holding a mobile smart phone taking photo of various medicationsAlways tell your doctor about all your current medications. It is also important to tell your doctor about vitamins, herbal remedies and dietary supplements you take.Medication can be an important component of your multidisciplinary treatment plan that may include non-surgical care (eg, physical therapy, spinal injections) and/or spine surgery. An antidepressant drug may be prescribed to treat the emotional component associated with physical pain and symptoms of living with a back or neck disorder.

This article provides an overview of the following types of medication spine, pain management, and mental/emotional health specialists may recommend. In each section, we’ve included the brand name first, followed by the generic drug name.

  • Over-the-Counter
  • Prescription Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Opioid Pain Relievers
  • Muscle Relaxants
  • Antidepressants

Over-the-Counter Medications

Analgesic OTC medications are pain-reducing drugs; they provide analgesia—relief from pain. Acetaminophen (eg, Tylenol) is an analgesic that may help relieve pain but does not reduce inflammation. Furthermore, acetaminophen in an ingredient in some types of prescription pain relievers.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work to help reduce inflammation and pain. Examples of OTC NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen sodium (Aleve), and aspirin (Ecotrin). Perhaps your doctor has first recommended an OTC-strength NSAID or analgesic before progressing to a prescription-strength NSAID, which may be prescribed if pain does not improve or worsens.

Read our article about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s important warning for people who take NSAIDs.

Types of Prescriptions Drugs

Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs
Your doctor may recommend a prescription NSAID medication to help you manage your neck, back, and/or related extremity pain (eg, leg pain, sciatica). These drugs include:

  • Anaprox (naproxen)
  • Celebrex (celecoxib)
  • Daypro (oxaprozin)
  • Feldene (prioxicam)
  • Indocin (indomethacin)
  • Mobic (meloxicam)
  • Naprosyn (naproxen)
  • Vimovo (naproxen/esomeprazole)
  • Voltaren-XR (diclofenac)

Opioids
Opioid pain medication may be prescribed to help manage acute pain (severe, short-term pain), episodic, or chronic pain (pain lasting 6 months or longer). Opioids, sometimes called narcotics or Schedule II drugs, are potent drugs with addiction and abuse potential. You and your prescribing doctor work together to help ensure the drug dosage and duration of therapy meet your treatment goal.

Types of opioid drugs include:

  • Duragesic (fentanyl skin patch)
  • Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen)
  • Dilaudid (hydromorphone)
  • Demerol (meperidine)
  • MS Contin (morphine)
  • OxyContin (oxycodone)
  • Ultram (tramadol)

Muscle Relaxants
If you suffer muscle spasms, such as resulting from whiplash or other spinal strain/strain, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant. A muscle relaxant may reduce pain and improve sleep quality.

Types of muscle relaxant medications include:

  • Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine)
  • Robaxin (methocarbamol)
  • Skelaxin (metaxalone)

Antidepressants
Some people who live with neck or back pain develop depression or already have depression before their spinal injury or problem occurred. The consequences of physical pain may alter a person’s quality of life. No two people are the same, and how one person copes is different from how someone else deals with pain. Your doctor may recommend an antidepressant medication to help you better cope with the multi-layered effects of chronic pain.

These are the different types of antidepressant drugs:

  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs): Elavil (amitriptyline), Anafranil (clomipramine), Norpramin (desipramine), Tofranil (imipramine), Pamelor (nortriptyline)
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): Prozac (fluoxetine), Celexa (citalopram), Paxil (paroxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram), Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): Effexor (venlafaxine), Cymbalta (duloxetine), and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine)
  • Norepinephrine-Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor (NDRI): Wellbutrin (bupropion)

Keys to Medication Safety

In addition to following your doctor’s explicit instructions for using your medicine—OTC and/or by prescription—there are ways to help ensure safe use your drugs to protect your health and get the most pain relief.

First, always tell your doctor about all your current medications. Why? Doing so may help prevent a potentially harmful drug interaction. Also, some drugs can reduce the effectiveness of other medications when taken together. It is also important to tell your doctor about vitamins, herbal remedies, and dietary supplements you take, as some may cause or contribute to a serious drug interaction or absorption problem.

Second, make sure you understand how to properly store and dispose of your medication.

Updated on: 06/26/18
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