How over-the-counter medications can prolong your back pain

Published: August 22, 2022 1:06 PM EDT
Updated: August 22, 2022 4:03 PM EDT

How taking over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen can prolong your back pain.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who struggle with back pain, you might find yourself grabbing over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen, for quick relief.

But can commonly used medications actually prolong your pain?

Dr. Candice Burnette, a Pain Management Physician at Memorial Hermann Surgical Hospital First Colony said, “About 80% of people in their lifetime will experience low back pain. Of those people, a good portion will experience pain that lasts for three months or longer.”

In fact, 16 million Americans have chronic back pain. Many rely on common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications for relief.

Now, a new study suggests those pills may cause the pain to stick around longer researchers say that happens because the drugs temporarily relieve inflammation, but don’t treat the root cause of the back problem.

Plus, Cleveland Clinic says other recent studies show that daily use of an anti-inflammatory can lead to stomach problems, high blood pressure, and kidney damage.

Instead of reaching for back pain pills first, some medical guidelines suggest people start with non-drug treatments like exercise, yoga, physical therapy, heat, or massage.

Pain management specialists say if doctors don’t help patients find relief from back pain things can get worse.

“It’s been linked to depression, sleep problems, anxiety. So having something that can effectively treat these patients who have been suffering really does improve their quality of life,” Burnette said.

Some medical experts urged caution in interpreting the results, saying the study by researchers at McGill University in Canada did not rely on a large clinical trial.

Still, others said this study is important because it reminds patients and doctors to search out effective treatments before popping a pill to relieve pain.