Tylenol, Asprin, Advil…which is the best OTC to help your aching back?
As it turns out, there’s a drug-free alternative that’s better than the best OTC for back pain.
Your spine is incredibly amazing. It’s responsible for bearing your weight, protecting your spinal cord, holding your ribs in place to protect your heart and lungs, and remaining flexible enough to allow you to move.
But most people don’t give their spines a second thought…unless, that is, they’re feeling back pain.
An estimated 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. And most of those people will turn to an over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication for quick relief.
What is the best OTC for back pain? And are they really the best option?
Best OTC For Back Pain Relief
When those first twinges of back pain surface, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, is often the drug of choice.
NSAIDs—such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin—are some of the most popular OTC pain medicines. The way NSAIDs work is by blocking an enzyme called cyclooxygenase, which prevents your body from making prostaglandin, a chemical which causes inflammation.
Reducing that inflammation is what alleviates your pain.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) isn’t an anti-inflammatory, but it is commonly used to treat pain and fevers. Experts aren’t entirely sure how it works, but it’s believed to block the same enzyme that NSAIDs do.
All things considered, the best OTC for back pain is the one that allows you to resume your everyday activities with the least amount of side effects. All pain medications (even OTC ones) come with a risk of unpleasant side effects, ranging from indigestion to liver and kidney damage.
But what if you’ve been taking steady doses for weeks and the pain isn’t getting any better? Should you switch to something stronger?
Sometimes, even the strongest “extra strength” over-the-counter pill isn’t enough to dull your pain. That’s when people (doctors included) tend to escalate to prescription opioids. But this often causes more problems than it solves.
Opioids—drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and fentanyl—are a highly regulated class of drug. Rather than telling your body not to produce pain, they tell it not to feel pain. Opioids work by blocking pain receptors in the brain and inducing a feeling of happiness and calm.
Highly effective? Yes. But you won’t be doing your body any favors.
If used for too long, opioids can wreak havoc on your body. You may suffer from constipation, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, depression…and these are just the minor symptoms! The biggest problem with opioids is that they are incredibly addictive.
It starts with your body developing a tolerance to the drug, which means you need more of it to feel the same benefits. You begin to take higher and higher doses, desperate to feel relief. Left unchecked, you may even take so much that your body stops breathing.
Opioids can be a helpful tool at relieving short-term pain after a surgery or traumatic injury. But for chronic pain, it’s better to step away from the pill bottle.
Solve the Problem…Not the Symptom!
Your throbbing back might disagree, but pain is actually helpful.
Pain is your body’s way of alerting you that there’s a problem. The inflammation is caused by increased blood flow, which is how your body helps heal injured tissue. The pain you feel is a reminder to stop and let your back get some rest.
By continually popping pills, you’re ignoring that alarm that says “Something’s wrong!” In fact, by ridding yourself of the pain, you’re more likely to injure your back further.
For instance, say you tripped while hiking one weekend and broke your wrist. If you take the right combination of pain medications, you wouldn’t be able to feel a thing. But there isn’t a drug in the world that can reset your bones.
Further, pain medication doesn’t give you any clues as to the cause of your pain.
If your pain is due to a pinched sciatic nerve, an anti-inflammatory won’t relieve that pressure. If your issue is a misalignment of the vertebrae, an opioid isn’t going to correct it.
There’s A More Effective, Drug-Free Alternative
Luckily, there’s a better alternative: chiropractic care.
Chiropractors specialize in diagnosing and treating joint misalignments that can put pressure on the nerves, muscles, and other soft tissues. By restoring your spine and other joints to their proper alignment, the offending symptoms (stiffness, tingling, numbness, and pain) will be dramatically reduced or even eliminated.
Addressing the problem at its source will make NSAIDs, opioids, and other pain medications unnecessary.
True, Lasting Back Pain Relief
Back pain is more than an annoyance, it’s a symptom that there is something wrong. And while pain pills might stop you from feeling discomfort, they can’t heal you.
Chiropractic adjustments and regular spinal care, on the other hand, will keep your back in tip-top shape so that you no longer have to suffer the harmful side effects of OTC pain meds.
Many people wait until they have been in a car accident or another type of severe trauma before seeing a chiropractor. But seemingly innocuous activities (like sitting at a desk for eight hours a day) can be extremely hard on your back.