Over the Counter Medications For Back Pain

Blaine MitchelAll, Back Pain, TreatmentsLeave a Comment

Plenty of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines will help you feel better quicker. Some lower pain, some decrease inflammation, and some are do both. Keep the differences in mind when purchasing medication.

Just because you don’t need a prescription doesn’t mean the drug isn’t harmful when taken in excess. Some OTC meds are basically just lower dosage pills than those available through prescription. Don’t dismiss the dosage instructions. More is definitely not better.

At the same time, understand that it’s a better option to instead prevent and manage pain than it is to get rid of it. Do not wait until the pain is unbearable before you take a first or second dose. Obey the interval dosing instructions to keep pain at a tolerable level.

It usually requires around 30 minutes for an OTC drug to have an effect. For best pain management, listen to the interval dosing recommendations on the product’s package.


NSAIDs – They’re Not All the Same

NSAID refers to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It’s a large class of medications which reduce inflammation. This is achieved by blocking an enzyme, cyclooxygenase (COX). Conventionally, this enzyme causes the release of prostaglandins, which then result in inflammation. An NSAID stops this from happening, preventing the inflammatory response.

Keep in mind that inflammation is the body’s way of reacting to injury and mobilizing cells to help mend the damage. Nevertheless, the very same inflammation cells which call for help at the area of injury also result in miserable pain. Inflammation to some degree is a benefit. However, NSAIDs won’t stop all inflammation. They most likely will just reduce the majority of it, which, if you’re trying to be free of pain, is what you’re looking for.

As well as triggering inflammation at the injury, prostaglandins have further functions. They control blood flow to the kidneys and sustain the health of your stomach lining. Therefore the problem of NSAIDs is that they also inhibit this variety of prostaglandin functions. That’s why prolonged use of NSAIDs is not advised. Their side effects, though not common, include impaired kidney function and ulcers.

There are different varieties of OTC NSAIDs. All have marginally different biochemical structures but all prevent the production of prostaglandins. Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) was the initial mass-marketed NSAID. Today lots of different brands of aspirin exist. Some unite aspirin with other components, including caffeine and acetaminophen. A crushed form of aspirin (known as BC Powder) is a potent combination medication which patients don’t always respect, but should. Dosages of the active ingredient can range from 325 milligrams (mg) to 500 mg. Usually people take aspirin every four to six hours.


Aspirin lowers the amount of inflammation around an injured area. It also thins the blood, which is why it is used for reducing heart attacks (only aspirin for this purpose if advised to do so by a doctor). If you suffer from an upset stomach whilst taking aspirin, give the -coated variety a go. Coated aspirin is absorbed primarily in the small intestine as a pose to the stomach.

Naproxen is effective at lowering inflammation. Its effects are more long lived than other NSAIDs. Dosage intervals are 8 to 12 hours, making it particularly convenient to take first thing in the morning and then later in the day.

Ibuprofen is another, very widespread OTC NSAID. Some people find it less irritating to the stomach than aspirin or naproxen. Common dosages are 200-400 mg of ibuprofen every four to six hours.



Better known by the name, Tylenol, this drug restricts the pain response, but has little effect on inflammation. Acetaminophen (better known as paracetamol) acts primarily on the brain and alters the way the body senses pain. While it is less likely to damage your stomach than aspirin, acetaminophen can result in liver damage when taken in high dosages.

It doesn’t thin the blood like aspirin, making it a better option for some people. Acetaminophen is often taken with other drugs, so be ensure you read labels carefully to avoid overdose. Likewise, due to its liver damaging potential, it’s advised to not drink alcohol when taking acetaminophen. Common OTC dosages are 325 to 650 mg every four to six hours.


Topical Treatments

A range of treatments applied straight to the skin can also reduce muscle soreness and further muscle relaxation. Some hold forms of aspirin whereas others have natural heating sources including peppers or plant oils. Keep in mind that these medicines are particularly potent, they are capable of being absorbed through the skin. That’s how potent they are.

The following treatments are all available over the counter:

  • Products which contain ingredients such as menthol, wintergreen, or eucalyptus oil will give your skin a hot and/or cold sensation. These can distract the pain receptors and/or cause the release of endorphins. Brand names include Biofreeze, Flexall, and Icy Hot.
  • Creams which contain aspirin relieve pain and decrease inflammation. Brand names include BenGay, Sportscreme, and Aspercreme.
  • Creams made from capsaicin, the volatile ingredient in hot peppers, generate a warming sensation on your skin. Brands include Capzasin and Zostrix.
  • Herbal topical medicines comprise of those which help reduce inflammation and pain. Tiger Balm is the brand name of a balm made from a selection of Chinese herbs. Arnica is a common homeopathic medicine, its source is a herb named Arnica Montana. It relieves pain, reduces inflammation, and helps heal bruises. Brand names include Boiron and Arniflora.


Natural Solutions

The majority of pharmaceutical and OTC drugs first started in the natural world. For instance, the first source of aspirin was the bark and leaves of the willow tree. Natural products do work. Value them and use as recommended. Don’t just consume a random selection of different herbs, medicines, and vitamins. Understand what you’re taking and why.

Herbs and vitamins don’t usually have severe side effects which conventional drugs do (unless you are allergic to them). It would be very difficult to overdose on herbs or vitamins, but it not impossible. They can interact with each other and other medications. Talk with a pharmacist, alternative health-care provider, or your doctor if you are unsure about these drug interactions.

Always keep in mind that these treatments are effective. They just haven’t been supported by huge pharmaceutical companies which spend millions of dollars on investigations and marketing. As a warning, however, they have not been put through to the extensive studies required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means they the side effects they may cause have not been well documented or studied. The same is true for the optimal dosages, strengths, and manufacturing processes.

Vitamins and Supplements

Vitamin D with calcium is a vital combination necessary to keep your bones healthy and strong. It’s not a direct pain reliever; however, lots of people, particularly postmenopausal women, do well to take this combination. It fortifies bones and therefore lowers to risk of osteoporosis related spinal fractures. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests 1,200 mg of calcium and 400 to 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D. Larger dosages may be suitable, but talk to your doctor first.

Magnesium, conversely, is a mineral that which allows muscles to relax and reduces joint pain. This mineral supports muscle and nerve function. The suggested dietary amount is 270 to 400 mg for adult males and 280 to 300 mg for adult females. If you have kidney or heart issues, consult with your doctor before taking this supplement.


When using OTC medicines, bear in mind that they still possess some degree of toxicity. Overloading the body with vitamins or herbal remedies, or using them in a harmful combination, could overload the current enzymes; leading to an imbalance in chemical pathways, and can even poison the body’s metabolism. Consider the fact that cyanide, arsenic, and carbon monoxide are “all natural,” and each very deadly!

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate supplements are an effect duo which has received a lot of attention for their potential to sooth arthritic symptoms. Both substances are located in our joints and it’s believed that the supplements can help refortify cartilage.

A study in 2006 by the U.S. government, the glucosamine/chondroitin arthritis intervention trial (GAIT), showed that, compared with placebo, the supplement delivered significant pain relief for those with moderate-to-severe pain. Suffers from mild pain didn’t seem to get much relief. However, two recent studies showed no improvement with glucosamine over the long term. So the jury is still out as to the usefulness of this supplement. It could only provide short-term relief.


Placebo refers to inert pills used in medical trials. They were previously made of sugar, but they were too easily detected as such by participants. Nowadays they made from a safe but tasteless substance which yields no biochemical effects. They allow researchers to establish whether or not a particular substance is effective by evaluating outcomes of participants on placebos to the results of those who are on the drug in question. A further supplement which is getting a lot of attention for helping to alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis is methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). Data from a small 12-week clinical trial, published in 2006, indicated that MSM was superior to the placebo in relieving mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis knee pain.

Fish-oil supplements have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, these can help lower inflammation. Reports have shown that fish-oil supplements may be helpful for relieving tender joints and morning stiffness. Some studies suggest that fish oil may reduce the need for NSAIDs.

There are some species of fish which contain high levels of mercury, pesticides, or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), this has raised the question of safety for some fish-oil supplements. A word of warning: In high doses, fish oil may react with particular medicines, such as blood thinners and drugs used for high blood pressure.

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