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Over the Counter Medications (OTC)

At a Glance

  • Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammation medications are often the first sources of treatment for acute and chronic back pain.
  • However, long term and high-dose usage can cause problems, and require monitoring by a doctor.
  • In addition to pain and anti-inflammation medications, the natural supplements glucosamine and condroitin sulfate and others have been shown to be helpful in the management of arthritis-type pain.
  • OTC Meds can treat Sprains and Strains, Herniated Intervertebral Disc, Degenerative Disc, Spondylolisthesis, Facet Arthritis, and Spinal Stenosis.


Over-the-counter medications for pain and inflammation include acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve). Caffeine is sometimes added to these types of medications, such as Excedrin, which is a mixture of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine.

These medications are effective for the treatment of minor pain. Taken regularly, ibuprofen and naproxen are also effective as anti-inflammatory medications for treating arthritis.

It’s important to be careful about using too much of these medications. The effects of high dosages can include liver damage, kidney disease, and bleeding ulcers.

As a plant-based medicine, hot peppers, especially the capsasin oil found in their seeds, are a powerful natural pain killer. Capsasin can be ingested in the form of various hot peppers, hot sauce, or capsasin capsules. It can also be applied as an ointment on the skin (Zostrix Cream, Capsasin-P). Cayenne pepper capsules are readily available in most health food or nutrition centers.

Scientists believe capsasin works by stimulating the release of beta endorphins (a pain killer produced naturally by the body) and by inhibiting the release of substance-p at nerve endings, a neurotransmitter (a type of naturally occurring chemical) responsible for the transmission of pain impulses in peripheral nerves. Cultures in Central America and Asia have used hot peppers for centuries to control moderate pain.

Other natural supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, omega-3 fatty acids, Co-Q 10, zinc, magnesium, L-arginine, vit D-3, calcium, and curcumin are effective to combat pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. Melatonin is a good and safe supplement to help with natural sleep. None of these supplements are habit forming and most work as well as prescription medications!