The number one treatment for lower back pain, both acute and chronic, is prescription and nonprescription drugs. Medications for low back pain are the most common treatment approach but is it the right approach?
No it is not.
It is both a foolish and dangerous approach to lower back pain treatment.
Here are four reasons why low back pain medication is a foolish choice for treating lower back pain.
It is foolish because:
The result is that you, the lower back pain sufferer, continues to suffer… forever.
All of the focus of treatment is on pain. Sadly, both patient and doctor believe that the elimination of pain equates to a cure. They believe if you eliminate the pain the problem is eliminated.
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
Eliminate the pain and just a symptom is eliminated. The cause has been ignored and the symptom will most likely eventually return
Too much of chiropractic care is about adjusting the spine. Too little attention is given to foot structure, short leg, pelvic tilt, trigger points and the resultant muscle dysfunction, overall physical fitness, and weight management.
Now why is low back pain medication dangerous?
The dangerous part about using symptom suppressing drugs isthe failure to correct the cause and any underlying contributing factors at the same time.
These medications simply mask the symptoms and the patient assumes that the medication is helping or has cured the problem.
So by suppressing symptoms you ignore correcting the problem and that just allows the degenerative process to continue. Eventually you have enough degeneration that more serious problems develop such as pinched nerves that may require surgery. Disabling surgery or even death due to surgery are now possibilities that could have been avoided.
Another danger is using drugs to treat chronic back pain. These drugs should be limited to early acute stages of lower back pain. They are totally ineffective and inappropriate for chronic lower back pain. To use them at this stage is irresponsible.
What starts out as the use of Advil or Tylenol for acute lower back pain all too often becomes the use of Oxycontin for chronic lower back pain.
An all too common scenario of this is as follows:
Two days later, the pain is so severe just the thought of moving is a stressful experience. So you call your physician or go to urgent care. There you are prescribed Flexeril and told to go home and rest.
Gradually over the next 5 to 7 days the pain eases substantially, and you falsely believe the medication has worked.
However, the pain never goes away completely. Over the next few months, or if you are lucky the next couple of years, you do fairly well with taking daily or frequent doses of Tylenol or other medications such as a prescription drug.
But the pain becomes more frequent and more severe as time passes. You return to your physician and she prescribes a stronger medication perhaps Oxycontin, Celebrex, or NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
You seem to be able to tolerate your lower back pain as long as you take your medicine. But the body is wise and attempts to detoxify itself by producing enzymes to break down these drugs in the liver. Or your nervous system just becomes resistant to their effects.
Now because the low back pain medication is less effective, you take more and more or turn to yet stronger drugs or perhaps many different ones at the same time (e.g., anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxants, painkillers).
Now you are likely ingesting multiple drugs that are ineffective and wrecking havoc to your health. You soon become dangerously addicted to them.
Some of these drugs can also cause or worsen depression, lower your immune system, cause liver disease, kidney failure, and gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and bleeding.
On top of the low back pain and addiction you now have other serious health problems that “require” even more medicines to treat.
All the while, as you develop more problems, your initial lower back problem gets worse. You are not only in the dangerous zone you have entered the disaster or catastrophic zone--all because the low back pain was never treated properly in the first this.
Let's look at some of the more commonly used low back pain medications.
We can break it down into three main categories:
Within the first category, pain suppressers, we find: Codeine, Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Hydrocodone and oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin)
Hydrocodone and oxycodone are very powerful narcotics. The problem with these drugs is their effectiveness is very short lived-although very powerful. This will often lead to their overuse. You begin using more or stronger amounts.
Eventually you become addicted, not because that is the only way you get relief, but because of the actual chemical addiction.
If prescribed they should only be used for a short term basis
They act one your brain to help you manage pain and are very addictive especially oxycodone and should only be used in severe cases, and no more than two weeks.
The body can quickly become tolerant and therefore these drugs become less effective. This will often cause the user to take higher and more frequent doses.
Too often they are prescribed for chronic pain which only leads to dependence and ineffectiveness.
It is important to understand that although they are very powerful the problem is their effectiveness is very short lived. This will often lead to their overuse. You begin using more or stronger amounts. Eventually you become addicted, not because that is the only way you get relief, but because of the actual chemical addiction.
The second type of low back pain medication prescribed is muscle relaxants. Because a lower back injury, usually of a strain nature, will cause the body to develop muscle spasm as a protective splinting action, the doctor believes that if the muscle will relax that will cure the back problem.
In fact when you prematurely relax the muscles spasm and eliminate the pain you are risking further harm and injury. You are not allowing the body’s inherent normal healing process to take place.
If you no longer have sufficient spasm and pain to keep you from using the torn muscle then what will keep you from overusing it and causing further damage.
With insult on top of injury you end up with extensive damage, poor scar tissue formation, dysfunctional back muscles, chronic pain, inflammation, overuse and dependency on inadequate drug therapy, and finally disability and a poor quality of life.
The more common muscle relaxants prescribed are:
The most commonly prescribed low back pain drug in this category is flexeril. It is the least habit forming of the three. It also has the least harmful side effects.
Both Soma and diazepam are habit forming-the latter is a strong depressant and can exacerbate depression disorders.
They also should only be prescribed for early treatment following a back injury when muscle spasm is present.
You may also be prescribed oral steroids or even given steroid injection along with these muscle relaxants.
Just like the narcotics these muscle relaxants act on a short-term basis.
The last category of low back pain medication is the anti-inflammatory drugs. These are steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
The steroidal drugs are also intended for short-term use. When used for extended periods they can cause:
NSAIDS are the most commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs with ibuprofin and naproxen leading the pack. Celebrex, Voltarin, Meloxicam, and nabumetone (Relafen) are also widely used. Just like the steroidal drugs, they can cause kidney and liver disease as well as intestinal bleeding.
Celebrex (Cox-2 inhibitor) seems to have fewer side effects
and does not cause stomach bleeding. It is often prescribed for long-term use. However, it is still very harmful and destructive and should be avoided.
NSAIDS and all of the above mentioned drugs offer no cure for lower back. The best they do is temporarily reduce the pain and permit some temporary relief. They do this at the risk of more serious complication and side effects and often lead to overdependence or outright addiction.
Before you choose to ingest any dangerous low back pain medication, that will never cure your lower back problem, you should seriously consider the consequences and ask yourself if it is worth the risk and harm.