Thoracic (Mid Back) Pain Medications

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Medication as a Treatment for Thoracic Pain

Medication as a treatment for thoracic pain is availability in a variety of forms and is often a first-step in resolving mid-back pain that has affected a person’s ability to otherwise live a normal and active life.

Thoracic Pain Treatment – Medication

The thoracic spine consists of a complex network of muscles, nerves, joints, connective tissue, and bones. Trauma to any of these can cause pain that may require medication. However, understanding the role of and responsibilities in taking medication to relieve thoracic pain is crucial.

Understanding Medication as a Treatment for Thoracic Pain

The thoracic spine consists of 12 vertebrae and the ribcage. The ribcage houses the organs of the chest and provides stability to the core. Mid-back pain can be felt when the thoracic spine has received an injury or trauma. Although herniated and bulging discs are rare in this area of the spine, they do happen and can be a great source of pain. The reason that herniated or bulging discs in the thoracic back is uncommon mostly has to do with the inflexibility of the spine in this area of the back. Compression on a nerve or blood vessel, muscle strain or sprain, degenerative discs from arthritis, or even improper posture can also be contributing factors involved in the experience of thoracic pain.

The usual recommendations for thoracic pain include resting the painful area from strenuous activity for a short time and using ice packs. Unfortunately, sometimes the pain is not alleviated by these remedies and the patient must use a medication as treatment for the thoracic pain.

In most cases, spine pain management experts will recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) medication as an initial treatment for thoracic pain. These medications include acetaminophen or an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). Acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) works within the brain (centrally) to turn off the “switch” that is causing the thoracic pain. This medication type has few side effects and the greatest risk in taking it is to those patients who have liver problems. An NSAID like ibuprofen or naproxen, works centrally as well, but usually one dose will last much longer than acetaminophen. For instance, one tablet of naproxen can provide up to 12 hours of relief. However, the risks of taking an NSAID long-term can include problems within the stomach and/or its lining. These risks as well as potential benefits should be extensively discussed with a spine pain management expert.

Over-the-counter medications are often used for mild to moderate thoracic pain. If the pain becomes severe however, your spine pain management doctor may prescribe a stronger medication or a combination of medications to help with the pain short-term. The goal of prescription medication for thoracic pain treatment is to help the patient through physical therapy and the daily routine with less pain, in the hopes that the cause of the condition will resolve itself over time. The pain management physician may recommend a muscle relaxer like cyclobenzaprine that works centrally to control spasms and to help the muscles relax.  Depending on the situation, the physician may prescribe a steroid to decrease inflammation.  Some of these analgesics also come in topical form rather than injection.

Patients with constant and/or severe thoracic pain may be prescribed a stronger prescription medication like codeine, hydrocodone, or oxycodone. These drugs are considered addictive and the body may create a tolerance to them. This means as time goes on, the dosage must be increased for the patient to have the same level of pain relief as they did initially. This is not recommended long-term because of the side effects, risks, drug interactions, and potential for dependency. If these medications do have the potential to help resolve the pain symptoms being felt by the patient however, spine experts may recommend them and will monitor patients very closely while they are being taken.

At-a-Glance: Medication as a Treatment for Thoracic Pain

  • Discuss with a thoracic pain management expert the best type of medication for mid-back pain based on your symptoms
  • Discuss all side effects, risks, and drug interactions of each medication recommended or prescribed
  • Thoracic pain medication can take the form of an oral (pill or liquid), topical (cream), and injection
  • Consult with your physician and pharmacist about drug interactions before taking any thoracic pain medication, including over-the-counter medicines

Thoracic Pain Tips

  • Trouble breathing
  • New and sudden chest pain
  • Severe headache never felt before
  • Unable to move one or both legs

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