Pharmacological Options in the Management of Low Back Pain

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Dr. Ted Findlay, DO, CCFP, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.

Low back pain is one of the most common conditions for which patients seek medical attention. It can be managed with lifestyle modification, or less commonly medical and surgical intervention. Appropriate selection among various pharmacological options mandates an understanding of the underlying symptomatology and the over-riding treatment plan and objectives. The range of potential medications is substantial: over-the-counter analgesics include acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, and weak opioid combinations including codeine or tramadol. More potent versions of many of the same components are available on prescription, commonly employing stronger opioids either singly or in a combination analgesic. When the pain involves either chronic or neuropathic features, other classes of medications, including anti-epileptic drugs and anti-depressants, may be appropriate.
Key Words: low back pain, acute, chronic, neuropathic pain, nociceptive pain, medications.