Pain Medication Safety Tips

As orthopedic specialists in Johnstown, we are always sure to be diligent about spine surgery recovery. One of the integral parts of your recovery plan will be managing pain medication. It’s normal to anticipate some pain while your body heals from surgery, so we always want to make sure you can do this as comfortably as possible with the aid of medication. However, the misuse of pain medication can lead to serious complications, which is why it is important for you to take certain safety precautions during your recovery.

Common Medications for Back Pain

When coping with back pain after your spine surgery, there are several different medication options that your doctor may prescribe.

Over the Counter

  • Acetaminophen. Acetaminophen dampens the signals from the body to the brain to inhibit you from feeling pain.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs target inflammation in the body, which in turn, reduces pain.


    In most cases, a prescription-strength medication will be necessary after surgery. You can receive either of the above types of over-the-counter pills in a larger dose from a prescription. In addition, your doctor may prescribe:

      • COX-2 inhibitors.

    COX-2 inhibitors are a type of NSAID that also reduce inflammation, but are safer for the gastrointestinal system. However, recent research suggests that there may be a link between COX-2 inhibitors and heart attack/stroke, so more studies need to be done.

      • Muscle relaxants.

    Muscle relaxants offer a sedative effect on the body as a whole, allowing all of the muscles to relax, including those that may be contributing to back pain.

      • Narcotics.

    Narcotics may be prescribed if you are experiencing extreme pain after your spine surgery. However, due to the addictive properties of these types of prescriptions, your physician will want to keep a close eye on your prescription. Some common ones include Percocet, Vicodin, and Oxycontin.

      • Antidepressants.

    Antidepressants do not only treat depression; they may be used to treat pain, anxiety, and insomnia, all of which can be problems after spine surgery. These are commonly Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro.

    Pain Medication Safety Tips

    In order to recover properly from surgery, it’s imperative to take steps to be safe in your medication use. You may have some questions for your doctor afterward that get lost in translation. Here are some tips to ensure your medication is safe for you to use.

    Talk to your doctor about medications you’re currently taking.

    Every single person who is responsible for your medical care should be aware of all the medications you take, whether they’re over-the-counter or prescription drugs, supplements, or vitamins. For people with more extensive lists of medications, it may be simpler to just bring all the meds to your appointments so it is clear to your medical team what you take.

    Consult with your pharmacist.

    You talk to your doctor about your health concerns, but do you even know your pharmacist? Your pharmacist is an integral member of your care team and should have a detailed record of your medications. This adds another person in your corner making sure you don’t head home with a prescription that will cause a poor reaction.

    Know your medication allergies and sensitivities.

    Regardless of whether you experience some mild stomach discomfort or an all-out allergic reaction to a medication, your physician, pharmacist, and spine surgeon should know about it. This is the best way to reduce your chances of having a negative reaction to a future medication.

    Clarify about refills.

    When your doctor writes your prescription, make sure it is clear to you how many refills you get. This ensures you get enough medication to cover you until your next visit. Keep in mind that prescription refills will only be valid for a year, and even if your doctor puts a refill on your prescription, it’s possible for your insurance company or pharmacy to decline to refill it if you do not have a new written prescription.

    Address any confusion about medication directions.

    Sometimes, dosing instructions on prescriptions are not very clear. For example, your prescription may tell you to take your medication six times daily, but it may not tell you exactly how much time there should be between each dose. If any of your prescription instructions confuse you, make sure to clarify with your doctor for your own safety.

    Get a written list of side effects.

    An integral part of medication safety is having a full understanding of potential drug side effects. Make sure that you get a written list of side effects from your pharmacists when you pick up your medication so you can reference it, and talk to them about what you should do in the event of a reaction.

    Consider a home delivery service.

    When recovering from spine surgery, you may have difficulty getting around for several weeks. If this is going to be an obstacle from getting your medication, consider signing up for a prescription home delivery service. This ensures that you will get your prescription on time so you can adhere to your medication schedule.

    If you’re looking for an orthopedic specialist in Johnstown, we would love to help you. Contact ClinTech Center for Spine Health for help today!