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Column Which Over-the-Counter Drugs Should You Use When Disc Herniation Pain is Unbearable?


August 24, 2023

Disc herniation is the most prevalent spine pathology in the world.

So, when you suddenly starts to feel back pain and you have good reasons to think it may be a herniated disc, or if you have already been diagnosed with a herniated disc and are unable to get immediate treatment, you sometimes may be tempted to resort to over-the-counter medications to relieve the pain.

For that reason, I will share today some information regarding over-the-counter medication you can use when the pain is unbearable.

Medications Available Over the Counter

If you are unable to consult a doctor right away, you can relieve your symptoms with over-the-counter medication available at drugstores, as some of them contain the same pain-relieving ingredients as prescription drugs.

Different types of over-the-counter medication available for back pain include oral medication, adhesive medication such as compresses (pain relief patches), and ointment medication.

Over-the-Counter Medicine to Relieve the Pain

Over-the-counter medicine has the advantage that it can be used whenever you are out of the house because it is only needed when the pain is severe and you want to do something about it right away. Oral medication can also be used if you are not too fond of compresses or ointments.

There are a variety of oral medicine available, such as painkillers, vitamin supplements, medicines to relieve muscle stiffness, as well as Chinese herbal medicines, all of which can be selected depending on the symptoms. However, it should be noted that some medication should never be used in combination with others such as compresses or ointments, as it may lead to an excessive intake of similar active ingredients.

・Analgesics (or painkillers)

In Japan, the drug Loxonin is usually recommended in case of severe pain.

Since it does not contain any sleep-inducing ingredients, it will not make you drowsy after taking it. It contains ingredients that are less stressful on the stomach, but the daily intake is usually limited.

It should not be taken in combination with other medicines or ointments that contain the same fever-reducing and pain-relieving ingredients.

・Pain-relieving vitamins

Vitamin supplements can relieve back pain by improving blood flow and assisting in the repair of damaged peripheral nerves. Their effect is not immediate but can be used in combination with painkillers or compresses.

It also does not contain ingredients that make you drowsy.

It can be taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding periods, but you should still consult your physician before taking it.

・Medication to relieve muscle tension

One of the causes of back pain and a worsening factor as well, is poor circulation caused by continual muscle tension in the lower back and surrounding muscles. Continued muscle tension can lead to a burning and throbbing pain around the lower back area.

Medication to relieve abnormal tension and stiffness in the muscles around the lower back can also be effective in relieving lower back pain. However, because they contain painkillers, other fever-reducing and pain-relieving active ingredients, cold remedies, and sedatives with overlapping ingredients may lead to drowsiness after taking them, so in that case, please refrain from operating mechanical devices or driving a car.

・Chinese herbal medicine effective on lower back pain

Chinese herbal medicine is recommended for those who have back pain accompanied by cold or anemia, or who have additional symptoms besides back pain.

Granule-type Chinese herbal medicine, which can be used for acute back pain, is recommended for those who have difficulty with the tablet type. The tablet type of Chinese herbal medicine is recommended for those who do not like the taste or smell of Chinese herbal medicine.

If symptoms do not improve after about one month of use, stop taking the medicine and consult a physician.

Compresses for back pain (pain relief patches)

The compress mode of action consists in applying it tightly on the affected area. Unlike ointments, the medication will not stain clothes, and it only needs to be applied once for a lasting effect. They are recommended for people who have difficulty taking oral medication due to stomach irritation or such other causes.

Compresses can be divided into two types: tape, which is relatively thin and has strong adhesive strength, but is difficult to peel off, and compresses, which contain moisture and cause less irritation to the skin.

・Tape-type compresses for pain

Tape Compresses are often used because they are inconspicuous and do not peel off easily.

There are two types of compresses: those that can be reapplied and those that can be used only once per day.

Yu can also choose between cold or warm compresses. The warm type is good for blood circulation and is effective in improving stiffness in the muscles of the lower back. If you find that warming up in a bath relieves your pain, you may want to use the warm type. However, it is best not to apply the warm type to the same area continuously, as it is highly irritating and may easily induce a rash.

Cataplasm Compresses for pain (Salon Pas type)

Cold compresses types are recommended for use on the affected areas that feel warm or hot.

The active ingredients penetrate the affected areas and relieve pain and inflammation.

Because of the moisture content of these compresses, they are less irritating to the skin than the tape-type counterpart.

Ointments for Back Pain

Ointments have an advantage over compresses in that they do not evaporate as much and retain their effectiveness for longer.  Ointments are recommended for people who have difficulty in applying compresses by themselves or have a tendency to get rashes easily.

Also, since ointments do not have a fixed shape or size, they are not limited in sizes like compresses can be. Another feature not found in compresses is that they are relatively inconspicuous when applied and are easy to carry when you are out of the house.

However, unlike compresses, ointments need to be reapplied several times during the day.

There are various types to choose from according to your preferences, such as in pomade, gel, liquid, lotion, or cream form.

Pomades, liquids, and lotions can be applied directly to the affected areas without getting one’s hands and fingers dirty. Gel types dry quickly and are less sticky. The cream type can be extensively lathered over a wide area to penetrate the skin, and is convenient if you want to massage the affected area.

Guidelines for Hospital Visits

If you are unable to go to a hospital right away but want to somehow relieve the pain on the spot, easily available over-the-counter medication are a convenient alternative.

However, some pain medications for disc herniation are highly potent and can cause serious side effects. Continued indiscriminate use through self-medication over a long period of time or the use of multiple medications in the wrong combination can prove to be potentially dangerous.

So if you have symptoms of a herniated disc, do not rely solely on over-the-counter medication and consult your doctor as soon as possible to receive appropriate treatment.

You should also see a specialist as soon as possible in the following cases:

● If the pain is unbearably severe and does not go away even when you rest.

● If the pain gradually worsens and the area of pain widens.

● When the buttocks or legs become numb or weak.

● When you have a fever.

● When pain is felt in areas other than the lower back, such as the chest.

● If you are unable to urinate or have bloody urine.

● If the pain persists for a continued period of time.

In the above cases, it may become necessary to undergo an examination as soon as possible and receive immediate treatment based on the resulting diagnosis.

Our clinic offers the Cellgel method, a treatment that repair damaged intervertebral discs that are responsible for back pain.

With our Cellgel method, we first inject a drug that fills the cracks in the disc, and the drug then turns into a gel that restores the cracks, thus providing a fundamental treatment. The main characteristics of the treatment are that the disc does not lose its volume and the drug remains in the disc as a gel-like implant after treatment, thus preserving the disc.

The Cellgel method

If you have ever been diagnosed with a herniated disc or suffer from back pain, please consider seeing us for a consultation.

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