Acetaminophen Vs. NSAIDs For Back Pain

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Acetaminophen Vs. NSAIDs For Back Pain

14 October 2019
 Categories: Health & Medical , Blog


Back pain is either acute or chronic. Your physician will develop a back pain treatment plan depending upon the severity and cause of your pain. Whether your back pain is caused by a simple strain or it's related to a degenerative condition of the spine or a herniated disc, your doctor may recommend that you take over-the-counter pain relievers. There are a couple of different classes of non-prescription pain medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDs, and regular analgesics. Here are some similarities and differences between NSAIDs and analgesics. 

Acetaminophen

Your physician may recommend that you take a non-prescription analgesic such as acetaminophen to manage your back pain if you have a history of stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, heartburn, or acid reflux disease.

Acetaminophen rarely causes digestive distress; however, if you have been diagnosed with liver disease or if you have a history of alcoholism, acetaminophen may not be recommended because it can contribute to liver damage, especially when taken with alcohol or when taken in doses larger than what is recommended by the manufacturer or your doctor.

It is important to note that, while acetaminophen and other analgesic medications can help reduce pain and fever, they are ineffective in reducing inflammation. Back injuries and medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis, as well as injuries such as strains, sprains, and broken bones, can cause significant swelling of your soft tissues. If you are unable to take NSAIDs, be sure to augment your back pain treatment plan with ice, which will help reduce swelling when your medications cannot. Gentle massage may also help relieve pain, promote blood flow, and diminish inflammation. 

NSAIDs

You may need to take NSAIDs if you twisted your back or have a herniated disc, as these conditions cause significant inflammation. NSAIDs not only help decrease local inflammation from injuries, but they also help dampen systemic inflammation which may be caused by autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. If you take prescription anticoagulant medications to lower your risk for strokes, blood clots, and heart attacks, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin may significantly heighten your risk for a dangerous bleeding episode.

While the most common types of bleeding associated with NSAIDs use are bleeding of the stomach, colon, nose, and urinary tract, they can also cause life-threatening bleeding in the brain. NSAIDs are the most commonly recommended drug for back pain, and while the non-prescription dosage is often effective in eliminating mild to moderate pain, your doctor may prescribe a higher dose if your pain is severe or if you experience decreased mobility or diminished range of motion.

Taking the NSAIDs with food may help any gastric distress that may be associated with larger doses; however, it may take longer for your medication to work when taken on a full stomach. Many people take antacid medications to relieve NSAID-related stomach problems, however, taking antacids that contain calcium carbonate may interfere with the absorption of your medication and may reduce its effectiveness. 

If analgesics or NSAIDs are ineffective in controlling your back pain, talk to your healthcare provider about alternative back pain treatment options. In addition to medications, physical and occupational therapy, heat treatments, and certain dietary supplements may help suppress inflammation, enhance circulations, speed the healing of soft tissue injuries, and relieve pain. If your back pain persists and is not responsive to treatments, your doctor may order diagnostic imaging tests and blood work to rule out other causes for your pain. Back pain can also be caused by renal problems, gallbladder disorders, blood abnormalities, and even as a result of medication side effects. 

For more information on back pain treatments, contact a doctor.