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Should You Take Narcotics for Back Pain?

Many wonder whether they should take narcotics for neck or back pain. Specifically, the use of painkillers such as oxycodone, morphine and fentanyl worry some people because of the severe risks associated with these drugs. Should you take these painkillers for your neck or back pain?

Should You Take Narcotics for Back Pain? Should you take painkillers for back pain?

Medicine For Back Pain at Home

Depending on your diagnosis there are a range of non-surgical treatments your doctor may recommend for your back pain. In a previous article we reviewed a number of ways to treat back pain.

However, for those wanting immediate pain relief, pain medicine is often an option. Some types of medicine for back pain at home include:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen and other NSAID’s
  • Corticosteroids
  • Menthol rubs
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Narcotics

All of these drugs can produce unwanted risks and/or side effects. For narcotics, the risk includes addiction, which can lead to overdose and death.

What Does “Narcotics” Mean?

The term narcotic can vary in meaning depending on where it’s used.

When narcotics is discussed in the legal community, it refers to an illegal drug. The general public has come to associate the term narcotic with opiate and opioid drugs such as heroin, morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl.

However, the medical community defines a narcotic as a specific type of analgesic, a drug used to relieve pain.

Narcotics for Pain

Narcotics (ie: morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone) are some of the strongest painkillers available. They are, therefore, an effective treatment for pain. When over-the-counter painkillers like NSAID’s and ibuprofen aren’t enough, doctors can prescribe these narcotics to help their patients manage their pain.

Do Narcotics Help with Back Pain?

When it comes to back pain narcotics can be an effective treatment for acute pain such as after a surgery. What about those suffering from chronic back pain?

Note: Acute pain is short lived while chronic pain can come and go over long periods of time.

Narcotics for Chronic Back Pain

A recent study found that chronic back, hip and knee pain sufferers taking opioid medications didn’t have any more significant pain relief than those taking non-opioid medications. In addition, recent increases in opioid abuse and deaths associated with heroin / fentanyl overdoses support the argument that narcotics shouldn’t be used for chronic pain.

Here at Saratoga Spine, our spine doctors do not recommend or prescribe narcotics for chronic pain.

Should You Take Narcotics for Back Pain?

The doctors at Saratoga Spine do not recommend narcotics for chronic neck or back pain.

If your doctor feels the use of narcotic medication may help you, (s)he will discuss with you the benefits and risks. If, after you review the benefits and risks, you decide to take narcotics, it is extremely important you follow the directions as prescribed and keep open communication with your doctor.



  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcotic
  2. https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/features/medication
  3. https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/narcotic-pain-medications
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000413.htm
  5. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2673971
*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery