Is It Safe to Take Over-the-Counter Painkillers for Back Pain?

Over the Counter Meds for Back Pain

While over-the-counter pain (OTC) medications can help with minor aches and pains related to muscle strain around the back area, painkillers are just what the name implies – medications meant to temporarily kill the pain. For this reason, it’s important to be aware of safety precautions to take when using OTC painkillers for back pain.

Consider the Type of Back Pain

Back pain from some horsing around with the kids in the backyard or overdoing it in the gym usually responds well to OTC pain medications, especially when the only issue is strained or overused muscles and tendons supporting the back. However, OTC painkillers aren’t likely to be all that effective for chronic back pain related to conditions like scoliosis or degenerative disc disease.

Safe OTC Medication Use

The specialists and spine surgeons from The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration offer the following tips for safe over-the-counter medication use:

  • Follow Usage Directions

    Directions on OTC painkillers are more than just casual recommendations. Possible side effects associated with not following package directions may include stomach bleeding (associated with NSAIDs) and, in some cases, liver or kidney damage from prolonged misuse.

  • Know the Active Ingredients

    It’s not unusual for multiple OTC painkillers to have the same active ingredient, which may result in an accidental overdose if you’re not aware that you’re doubling your dosage. Consider taking only one OTC medication at a time to reduce this risk.

  • Watch out for Interactions with Other Medications

    Even dietary supplements may contain ingredients that can interact with OTC painkillers. If you’re not sure, ask your pharmacist about possible interactions with vitamins, supplements or other medications you may be taking.

There’s no doubt that OTC pain medications can lessen the severity of back pain for many people. Unless back pain is from occasional overuse of back muscles, however, there’s likely to be a point when it’s time to see a doctor who can pinpoint and treat the actual cause of the pain.

If you are living with chronic pain that is not responding to OTC pain medications, call 310-828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation with Dr. Bae, an experienced and professional board-certified surgeon in Santa Monica. We’re here to help you pinpoint your pain, and find the treatments best for a pain free future.