There is no one magic solution to treating chronic back pain. Instead our doctors and trained spine surgeons in Seattle utilize a variety of different methods to bring you relief. For some patients this means pain medications. We may use oral medications or injections to bring you relief.
You may be wondering what the differences are between these two treatment options. Let’s take a look!
Over-the-Counter Pain Relief
Over-the-counter medications may provide a measure of pain relief for those with mild back or sciatica pain. Your doctor may suggest using over-the-counter pain relief like Tylenol or aspirin. Make sure that you follow their dosage instructions carefully and that you make sure that your doctor is aware of any medications you take, even if they are over-the-counter. Your doctor needs to understand exactly what you are taking to help you avoid potentially serious side effects and drug interactions.
Oral Prescription Pain Relief
If your back pain is too severe for over-the-counter drugs, your doctor may prescribe stronger, prescription drugs instead. Depending on your pain and its causes your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs and sometimes even strong prescription pain-killers. Even anti-depressants can sometimes provide back pain relief for some conditions.
Prescriptions tend to provide stronger pain relief potential than over-the-counter drugs. They may also have more side effects. Talk with your doctor about which option is right for you. It is also important to keep your doctor informed of any side effects you experience while taking a medication.
Injections can provide concentrated pain relief right to the affected area. This may result in more pain relief with fewer side effects. We also use injections to find the site of your pain. For example we may inject a treatment into an area to find out if that specific area is the source of your pain. Injection treatments often consist of a pain relieving medication and a steroid to reduce inflammation. Injections can provide relief for several weeks or longer yet often the main reason for injections are diagnostic.
What are the Differences Between Oral Medications and Injections?
While the purposes of oral medications and injections are the same, to provide pain relief, they are often achieved differently. Some people may find lasting pain relief from one treatment and nothing from the other. We are so grateful to have a variety of different options to offer our patients.
Injections are typically administered in our offices. You may require 1 or couple injections for each spine or extremity region. Oral medications on the other hand can typically be taken from the comfort of your own home. You will need to come in for appointments and evaluation at different frequencies depending on the type of medication you will be prescribed (varies from every 2 weeks to every couple months), but you will take medications yourself. Depending on the medication you may not be able to drive while taking it. Talk with your doctor about potential side effects before starting a new medication.
Another difference is the amount of time you may experience relief. Injections may last several weeks or months while oral medications may need to be taken on a daily basis. With injections you may experience swelling or pain at the injection site for a few days after the procedure.
Yet it very important to understand that oral medication is meant to only mask the source of the problem. Most pain treating medications do not cure the problem. They are temporary tool that your provider will use while trying to figure out the source of your pain. Taking pain medication long term may cause addiction problems or other side effects. For mild problems of the spine injections are often the final point of your treatment, but for more serious injuries of the spine, injections serve only as a diagnostic tool.
Which is Right for You?
When it comes to deciding which course of treatment is right for you, only a doctor can decide. Your doctor will work with you to determine if oral medications, injections or both are appropriate for your treatment. In some cases your doctor will decide that minimally invasive spine surgery will be more effective than either of these treatment options.