What medications are used to manage back problems?

Analgesics (or painkillers) are commonly used to manage back pain. Analgesics include paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioid analgesics.

In the US, the UK and Australia, the clinical practice guidelines for management of low back pain recommend regular use of paracetamol as the first choice. However, recent evidence suggests paracetamol may not be effective for treating acute low back pain [1]. When paracetamol provides insufficient pain relief, regular use of NSAIDs is recommended. The Australian guidelines note that oral opioids may be necessary to relieve severe back pain.

The most common medications prescribed for back problems managed by GPs include:

  • paracetamol/high dose codeine (paracetamol/opioid analgesic combination containing 30mg of codeine)
  • oxycodone (opioid analgesic)
  • paracetamol.

Diazepam was also prescribed in the management of back problems by GPs. This medication belongs in the class of medications known as 'anxiolytics', which are often used in the clinical management of anxiety.

Reference

  1. Williams CM, Maher CG, Latimer J, McLachlan AJ, Hancock MJ, Day RO, et al. 2014. Efficacy of paracetamol for acute low-back pain: a double-blind, randomised controlled trial. The Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60805-9.