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Alleviating Back Pain with Anti Inflammatory Drugs

Anti inflammatory drugs are widely used by Americans for a variety of conditions, including back pain. Not widely understood by their users is how these drugs actually work. Back pain affects tens of millions of Americans at any one time, and is in fact one of the most common reasons for seeking medical attention in this country. The pain can be chronic or intermittent. The pain can concentrate in one area of the back or radiate to the extremities. Back pain can be dull or piercing. In a small number of cases, the pain is associated with a specific pathological condition that can range from cancer to infection of the vertebral bones. In more than 90 percent of the cases, however, the underlying factor is not clearly understood, which can hinder diagnosis.

Back pain can be treated in many ways, from a simple increase in exercise to such exotic techniques as acupuncture. One of the most common methods of treatment is with anti inflammatory drugs. Some of these medications can only be obtained by prescription, although many are available over the counter. The name of the drug indicates its main purpose, and that is to relieve pain and swelling. The best known of the anti inflammatory drugs, which was at one time the only one available without a prescription, is aspirin. In the 1980s, ibuprofen became available over the counter and under the brand name Advil, while fenoprofen and naproxen, which are better known by the brand names Nelfon and Anaprox, still require a prescription.

The primary function of anti inflammatory drugs is to reduce the level of prostaglandins, which are hormone-like chemicals in the body that are directly linked to inflammation and swelling. This differs from the effects of acetaminophen drugs, such as Tylenol, which treat pain by interfering with pain messages transmitted to the brain. This less direct method generally makes these drugs less effective in dealing with pain caused by inflammation. Some pain medications, such as Excedrine Migraine, combine the elements both anti inflammatory and acetaminophen drugs.

There are many issues that should be considered before taking anti inflammatory drugs to treat back pain or any other condition. These include one''s medical and surgical history, the possibility of reactions to other drugs that are being taken and the issue of allergic reactions caused by the medications themselves. Another issue to consider is side effects, which can include stomach and intestinal ulcers. The effectiveness of any type of medication in treating back pain varies among patients and the severity of the condition being treated. However, medical experts recommend against treating pain for more than 10 days with any particular type of drug, even those available over the counter, without consulting with a doctor.


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