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At a Glance

  • The most common prescription medications for spinal conditions are anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Doctors often prescribe narcotic pain killers to help manage severe pain as a result of injury, pinched nerves, severe inflammation and surgery.
  • Medications for muscle spasms, neuromodulation, and mental depression are used for muscle spasms, various neurological conditions, and chronic pain.
  • Prescription medications treat Herniated Intervertebral Disc, Facet Arthritis and Spinal Stenosis.


Anti-inflammatory medicines work by interfering with the biochemical response to injury. Of the anti-inflammatory drugs, prescription Motrin and Naproxen are two of the best and have been available for many years. But they can irritate the stomach and cause bleeding ulcers.

New medications such as Mobic, Celebrex, Arthrotec, Feldene, Voltaren, and others can be used with less frequency, are safer on the stomach, and are non-habit forming.

Cortisone pills such as a Medrol Dose Pack (methylprednisolone) or Prednisone tabs are sometimes necessary where a stronger anti-inflammatory agent is needed, such as for a herniated disc or pinched nerve.

Narcotic pain killers are often prescribed to manage severe pain as a result of injury, pinched nerves, severe inflammation and surgery. These include short and long acting pills, patches and pain pumps.

Narcotic medication is generally the most effective when the pain will eventually go away, such as after an acute injury or a surgery. But using narcotics for long-term control of back and neck pain can lead to a chemical dependency and addiction. That’s because the narcotic medicine will eventually lose its potency, requiring larger doses.

With increased doses come problems such as increased pain, depression, sleep disorders, personality changes, anxiety, anger, and growing fears. Withdrawal symptoms occur if the person tries to stop the medicine abruptly.

Controversy exists in the medical profession as to the most appropriate, beneficial, and ethical use of prescription pain medication. Anyone facing significant pain should have an honest and realistic discussion with a pain-management physician about treatment options available and the best way to avoid all but temporary narcotic medicine usage. Accidental deaths from overdose of prescription pain killers is an epidemic in the United States and almost equals the number of people who die in car accidents each year!

Antispasmodic drugs are used with varying degrees of success for the management of muscle spasms and leg cramps that can sometimes come from spinal problems. Most are safe and non-habit-forming, but they can make you drowsy or affect coordination. Occasionally, Valium is prescribed as a muscle relaxant, but can become habit-forming as well.

Neuromodulators are substances that alter the transmission of nerve impulses. Neuromodulators such as Neurontin, Lyrica, Tegretal, and Depakene, are used for certain conditions where nerve damage, inflammation, or irritation may be present. These medications are generally safe, effective, have few side effects, and are non-habit forming. They are actually in the anti-seizure class of drugs and work by modifying impulses traveling up and down nerves and the spinal cord.

Conditions such as neuropathy, chronic radiculopathy, herpetic neuralgia, fibromyalgia, complex pain syndrome, and reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) are some of the conditions that neuromodulators can effectively treat.

It is very important to know that anyone taking any of these medications can never abruptly stop them. They must be tapered off under the supervision of a physician. Stopping the medication suddenly may cause a seizure.

Anti-depressant medications such as Effexor, Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, Lexapro, Zoloft, and Celexa are very good in helping manage the effects of acute and chronic pain. Although listed as anti-depressants, these medication work in the brain to improve the production and release of certain chemicals that normally make us feel good and naturally control pain – serotonin and beta-endorphins.

These natural chemicals are produced in our brain and other areas. They are Mother Nature’s pain killers and are generally depressed when we are in pain, don’t exercise, sleep poorly, and don’t have sex, and when we take narcotic medications. They make us feel good and happy. People who have a high production of these good chemical have a high pain tolerance; those who don’t have a low pain tolerance.

Anti-depressants treat these effects, thereby helping to control pain secondarily. These medications are not habit forming and are very safe. They add a significant dimension to managing acute and chronic pain.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is prescription medication used for when treating back pain?
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