Medication For Back Pain

by Gavin Morrison on January 15, 2015

Medications for joint and muscle pain are either over the counter drugs (OTC) or prescription medications. Like most drugs, there are brand names and generic forms. Generic medications cost less. You can buy over the counter medications from the pharmacy without a prescription.  Patients should consult a physician if there is a need to take any kind of medication for more than a two-week period.


Common OTC pain medications:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) are most often used to control pain, including back pain. Taken in therapeutic (higher more frequent) doses they can also be effective at controlling inflammation. NSAIDs can cause stomach and digestive problems in some patients. NSAIDs should be taken with meals to help avoid these side effects. NSAIDs should not be used long term (more than 2 weeks) without consulting a physician.

Common OTC NSAIDs:

·    Aleve (Naproxen Sodium)
·    Advil (Ibuprofen)

High dosage prescription strength NSAIDs are prescribed for their anti-inflammatory properties. Higher dosage NSAIDs may have side effects such as nausea, constipation, diarrhea and sensitivity to light.

Some serious risks of long-term use of higher dose NSAIDs are:

·    Kidney damage. These medications are generally filtered and flushed out of the body through the kidneys. Patients over the age of 65 or those with kidney problems must first consult a physician before taking NSAIDs. Patients taking NSAIDs for six months or longer should have regular blood tests to check any developing kidney dysfunction.

·    Stomach problems. Stomach upset and sometimes stomach ulcers can occur with extended NSAID use. Patients with stomach ulcers should consult with their physician before taking NSAIDs. Symptoms can be intestinal bleeding marked by abdominal pain, black tarry stools, muscle weakness, or light-headedness when standing up.

NSAIDs have other risks and complications. While many side effects are rare, some can be serious. As with any medication, it is important to be under the care of a physician when taking NSAIDs at higher doses or for extended periods.

Patients with the following problems should consult a physician before taking NSAIDs:

·    Thyroid conditions
·    Diabetes
·    Heart disease
·    High blood pressure
·    Allergies to aspirin or other pain relievers
·    Breast feeding and/or pregnancy
·    Consuming in excess of three alcoholic beverages a day
·    Surgery (including dental surgery)

Acetaminophen, or Tylenol, is also a popular OTC medication used for relieving pain. Tylenol has no anti-inflammatory effects but is the safest choice for mild pain relief, especially for pregnant women. There are few side effects except for those that have a liver condition or liver damage from hepatitis. Further studies are being done on long-term effects of this medication on the liver.

Anacin, also called Paracetamol, is another OTC medication used for pain, although much less common.

Prescription Medications For Joint Or Spine Problems

Prescription medications include:

·    Muscle relaxors
·    Steroid anti-inflammatories
·    Pain killers
Muscle relaxors are prescribed for severe muscles spasms associated with back pain. Muscle spasm pain can range from mild to excruciating. When the muscles contract or start to spasm in reaction to problems in the spine these muscles can cut off their own blood supply. Reduced blood supply means there is less oxygen getting to the muscle cells. This is referred to as an ischemic condition in the muscle. This lack of oxygen to the muscle cells is what creates the intense pain associated with back spasms. Muscle relaxors help reduce the spasms in the back muscles which reduces the back pain.

Common prescription muscle relaxors:

Flexeril (Cyclobenzaprine) Skeletal Muscle Relaxant
Skelaxin (Metaxalone) muscle relaxant
Soma (Carisoprodol) muscle relaxant

Steroid Anti-inflammatories

Oral steroids are often prescribed to reduce severe inflammation. Such inflammation is often associated with a bulged or herniated disc in the lower back.  The nerve pain that often occurs with low back disc problems is generally due in part to inflammation of the surrounding ligaments and soft tissues. Reducing the inflammation in these tissues often helps to reduce pain and pressure on the nerve even when there is a disc bulge.
Oral steroids are sometimes used to control pain and inflammation around other joints as well. Controlling pain and inflammation allows patients to pursue conservative treatment such as physical therapy.

Oral steroids come in pill form in what is known as a Medrol Dose Pack. This regimen starts with a high dose of the steroid. The medication reduces inflammation and delivers some immediate pain relief. The dose is then tapered off over a period of five or six days.

There are numerous complications associated with chronic steroid use. Therefore, steroids are prescribed for short periods of time, usually one to two weeks. Frequently steroids are prescribed only when a patient experiences severe flair ups in their back or other joints.

The most commonly prescribed oral steroid is Prednisone (Methylprednisolone)

Narcotic Medications For Back Pain

Narcotics can be very effective at killing pain, however they are highly addictive if taken for extended periods. In addition patients can develop a tolerance to the medication making the initial dosage less effective thus requiring higher doses over time. Because they are addictive these medications are generally prescribed only for intense pain from injuries or after surgery. Except in cases of intractable (unstoppable) pain they are only prescribed for short periods (2 weeks or less).

These drugs work on the receptors in the brain that are associated with processing pain signals coming from the body. As with most prescription medications they can have numerous side effects. It is important to discuss these side effects with the prescribing physician.

Prescription Drugs Commonly Prescribed For Severe Pain

OxyContin Oxycodone Hydrochloride.
Percocet Oxycodone Hydrochloride & Acetaminophen.
Vicodin Acetaminophen and Hydrocodone.

Ultram (Tramadol). This medication is a non-narcotic painkiller that is stronger than Tylenol (acetaminophen) but is not a narcotic medication.
Ultracet has both Tramadol and Acetaminophen. Patients who take Ultracet should not take acetaminophen (Tylenol).



by Gavin Morrison on December 30, 2014

Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to curve abnormally. A scoliotic curve can also have some abnormal rotation to it. This is called a rotoscoliosis.


Scoliosis curves are seen when viewing the spine from the back and are measured in degrees. A normal spine will have a curve of less than 10 degrees. In mild scoliosis, the spine curves 10 to 20 degrees. Moderate forms have a 20 to 50 degree curve. Severe scoliosis curves that are 50 degrees and higher.

Types of Scoliosis

* Idiopathic Spinal Curves, are frequently discovered in children from ages 10 through 12, although the condition can appear in younger children and older teens as well.

* Juvenile Spinal Curves that begin in early childhood and progress quickly are serious and need immediate and aggressive treatment.

* Adult Spinal Scoliosis appears in older adults, often after middle age.

* A Congenital Spinal Curvature occurs in-utero when the fetus in forming and is considered a type of spinal defect.

The Facts on Scoliosis


C shaped curves, those that look like a “ C” or S shaped curves those like an “S” are the typical scoliosis curves. These curves frequently occur in the thoracic spine (middle back).

90% of scoliosis cases have no associated pain or symptoms.

Diagnosis of a curve generally happens during a regular exam from a school nurse, healthcare professional or family doctor. These consist of bending and measuring the spine and legs for abnormalities and checking height differences. A chiropractor can also diagnose scoliosis. In cases where a scoliosis is suspected, X-rays will be taken to measure the degree and type of curve.


Scoliosis symptoms

Signs that the condition is present include:

· Asymetric shoulder height.
· Uneven waist or hip height.
· Ribs higher on one side.
· Torso leaning to one side.
· Disproportionate or uneven shoulder blades.

Severe Scoliosis

Scoliosis curves that measure over 70 degrees are dangerous. These curves can result in the ribs constricting lungs and heart function. Breathing problems can leave the patient at risk for pneumonia or cardiovascular problems. Severe scoliosis ultimately requires treatment. Therapy options are quite limited. However studies are currently being done to investigate new treatment and prevention methods. Surgical options include a spinal realignment and vertebral fusion.

Pain From Scoliosis

Mild scoliotic curves require only minimal treatment, generally in the form of physical therapy. Moderate to severe cases are not often painful but need to be monitored by a health professional. Some severe types of scoliosis can threaten the integral structure of the spine.

Spine specialists and surgeons monitor and treat the chronic pain from severe scoliosis. Unfortunately, invasive surgeries are the only treatment at present for severe curves. The discovery of a genetic component of scoliosis may eventually assist doctors in preventing the disease rather than merely treat it.

Scoliosis Treatment

There are two common treatments that have been proven to be effective. The first is surgery and the second is having younger patients wear a back brace.

Back Braces For Scoliosis

Back braces are recommended for controlling scoliosis in children as soon as the condition becomes serious. The brace is fitted and then worn for up to 23 hours a day. This approach is used for spinal curves larger than 10 degrees but less than 45 degrees. The brace needs to be worn during the child’s growing years. While the brace will not fix the curve, it is a temporary method to prevent the condition from worsening. Once the brace is discontinued there is some evidence that the curve can return. Braces are mostly effective at keeping mild to moderate curves from progressing.

Types of Back Braces


The original back brace was called a Milwaukee Brace but is rarely prescribed by anymore. This bulky device, made of metal limits activity and movement. Modern plastic braces are less obvious and allow the patient freedom of movement.

New designs are being created using high tech materials that are more comfortable and less obvious and restrictive.

Alternatives in Scoliosis Treatment

Even with modern medical technology treatment for scoliosis still inadequate.

* Chiropractic care will not correct a curve but may lessen pain and symptoms.

* Electrotherapy and stimulation can also relieve symptoms.

* Physical therapy techniques help increase the patient’s range of motion, reduce pain and potential disability.

Scoliosis Surgery

Scoliosis surgery is the most serious and extreme of all the spine surgeries. Surgeons  hold back on surgery unless the curve measures over 50 degrees. Children are not candidates for this type of surgery until the spine and other structural bones are fully developed. The surgery for scoliosis is a spinal fusion using grafts from the patient’s bones, taken from the hip or cadaver bones. Fixation devices such a screws, hooks and rods are used to realign and stabiliza the spine thus inhibiting the progression of the scoliosis.


Spinal Fusion Scoliosis Surgery

With a severe thoracic scoliosis, at least ten vertebrae are fused during the surgery. Bone grafts cause the vertebrae to permanently grow together over time. One consequence of this is procedure is severely restricted motion in the back.

The surgery involves a preparatory procedure that removes the intervertebral discs between the vertebrae that will be fused. This requires incisions to be made in the abdomen (anterior approach) or the back (posterior approach) or a combination of the two in order for the surgeon to gain access to the spine. Once the discs are removed the empty spaces between the vertebrae are filled in with bone chips (grafts) and the spine is fixated with screws plates and rods.

Posterior fusions require more recovery time because the muscle and healthy tissue the must be stretched and moved to get access to the spine are traumatized by the procedure. The abdominal or anterior approach requires fusing fewer vertebral levels however it cannot be used on all types of curves.

Precautions and Concerns for Scoliosis Surgery

As with all surgeries there is a significant risk of infection. In addition, the cadaver bone grafts used in surgery may be rejected by the patient’s body during recovery. There can also be spinal fluid that leaks out of the spinal cord due to the invasiveness of the procedure. Post-operative bleeding is also a risk. After fusion surgeries healthy vertebrae that were not fused have a greater risk of injury. Peripheral nerve damage and the possibility that the vertebrae will not fuse are also risks. 10 to 20 percent of scoliosis surgery patients experience some sort of post surgical complications.

The fusion procedure for scoliosis is very invasive. The surgery itself lasts several hours and the rehabilitation process is rigorous and can take several months. You can expect up to 7 days of hospitalization for observation post surgery.

In cases of scoliosis in children the physician should reassure the child that has been diagnosed that they are not destined to experience pain from their condition. Psychologically, the physician has a big influence on whether on not the child will suffer pain from the condition or not in later life.


Back Pain From Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)

December 22, 2014

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is the medical term that refers to the excessive degeneration of the intervertebral discs in the spine. As discs age they lose water content which leads to decreased disc height. This loss of disc height reduces the space between the vertebrae can irritate facet joints, ligaments and nerves causing pain in [...]

Read the full article →

Cortisone For Pain Relief

December 8, 2014

Many physical therapists in Boise work with patients who have had cortisone shots for back pain relief. Cortisone is a steroid that is often used to alleviate inflammation. Many painful conditions in the spine and other joints such as shoulders, knees and elbows are directly related to inflammation. When inflammation is suspected as the cause [...]

Read the full article →

Back Pain From Ankylosing Spondylitis

December 2, 2014

Ankylosing Spondylitis, also known as Marie-Strumpell disease and rheumatoid spondylitis, is a rheumatic inflammatory condition that affects the vertebrae and spinal facet joints. This disease can also attack other joints or organs in the body.  It is a type of arthritis that is generally diagnosed and treated by a rheumatologist or physician who specializes in [...]

Read the full article →

Physical Therapy For Back Pain

November 17, 2014

Physical therapy has been proven through extensive medical research to be an effective treatment for back and neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain and many other joint and muscle problems. Physical therapists treat patients in a physical therapy clinic that is set up for physical examinations, manual treatment (i.e. massage and stretching), therapeutic exercise and [...]

Read the full article →


October 31, 2014

Sciatica is the term that refers to a pain that radiates down the back of the leg. Sciatica is caused by a problem in the low back such as a bulging disc that puts pressure on one or more of the spinal nerves (pinched nerve). Some form of low back pain and stiffness often but [...]

Read the full article →

What Is a Herniated Disc

October 9, 2014

One common cause of lower back pain is a herniated disc (disc bulge) The human spine is made up of 24 mobile vertebrae that are separated by intervertebral discs. The discs that are most frequently injured (herniated) are the ones at the bottom of the spine (lower lumbar) those between the 4th and 5th lumbar [...]

Read the full article →

Physical Therapy in Boise for Plantar Fasciitis / Heel Pain

June 2, 2014

Are you tired of sharp stabbing pain getting up in the morning, the ache in the heel with standing and not being able to run or exercise? Well there’s a simple answer to your problem, physical therapy. Physical therapy is widely considered the most effective treatment for heel pain, also known as Plantar Fasciitis. The [...]

Read the full article →

Physical Therapy In Boise For Tennis Elbow

May 27, 2014

Elbow pain is often referred to as Tennis elbow. It is caused by irritation and inflammation of the tendons that attach the muscles that control the wrist to the elbow. The tendons become irritated and inflamed due to repetitive strain such as pulling a lawn mower cord for too long, hitting a tennis ball incorrectly [...]

Read the full article →