Intravenous medications are often used during and immediately after surgery to manage pain. Beyond that point, pain is managed with medications patients will have to take while their body heals. While the specific combination varies based on the type of spine or back surgery involved, there are commonly prescribed medications recommended for any patient following spine surgery.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Often recommended for pain relief following minor surgery, NSAIDs help reduce swelling and soreness. For major spine procedures, such as fusion surgery, NSAIDs like Advil and Motrin IB are often combined with opioid pain relievers. While NSAIDs do not lead to addiction or dependence, NSAIDs alone aren’t effective for moderate-to-severe pain.
These are essentially the same medications provided via IV, only in pill form. Oral opioids are effective for severe pain, with potential side effects including nausea and drowsiness. Due to the possibility of developing an addiction from prolonged use, patients are encouraged to stop taking opioids as soon as their pain improves.
Technically considered an opioid, Tramadol is unique in that it helps manage post-surgery pain differently. It works by changing the way the body senses pain signals sent from the nerves of the spine to the brain. While effective on its own in treating moderate pain after surgery, it’s often combined with acetaminophen or NSAIDs.
Acetaminophen helps the body better absorb opioids, thereby reducing the risk of developing a dependency on opioid painkillers. Precautions should be taken to avoid certain OTC pain medications, including sleep aids and cold medications, containing acetaminophen to avoid an acetaminophen overdose.
A recent trend in post-surgical pain management is to combine various medications to optimize benefits. This is also done to minimize the risk of side effects associated with certain drugs, namely opioids.
Post-surgery medications can be ordered in advance to avoid the hassle of getting to the pharmacy after returning home. It’s also important for patients to monitor their pain and report any changes in severity of discomfort to their board-certified spine surgeon or contact person at the hospital. The same goes for any noticeable side effects from medications prescribed.
If you’re interested in learning more about back pain relief options or would like a second opinion, reach out to Dr. Bae of The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. Dr. Bae is a leader in his field, with extensive knowledge of spinal fusion techniques and more innovative technologies like artificial disc replacement with Mobi-C. For more information or to schedule an in-person consultation, call (310) 828-7757 today.