Opiate Pain Relievers for Spinal Stenosis
Opiates are also called opioids or narcotics.
Opiates are sometimes combined with other medicines. For example, Percocet is oxycodone combined with acetaminophen.
How It Works
Opiates are prescription narcotic medicines that are similar to pain-relieving substances naturally produced by the body (endorphins). Opiates suppress your perception of pain by reducing the number of pain signals sent by the nervous system and calm your emotional response to pain by reducing the brain's reaction to pain signals.
Why It Is Used
Opiates are sometimes used to relieve flare-ups of low back pain caused by pressure on the spinal nerve roots due to lumbar spinal stenosis. Stenosis can squeeze and irritate the nerve roots, causing moderate to severe pain. Opiates can be a responsible way to treat pain if the pain is not relieved by other treatments and you cannot do daily activities. They are usually used only for short periods of time, which helps you avoid side effects.
How Well It Works
Opioids are effective in reducing osteoarthritis pain that has not been relieved by other medicines. Osteoarthritis is a common cause of spinal stenosis. Opioids do not relieve inflammation, so they are often combined with an anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAIDs).1
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call your doctor if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
You may become physically dependent on opioids if you take them regularly. Physical dependence is not addiction, but it is a gradual change in your body in response to the opioids. If you stop taking opioids abruptly, you may develop nausea, sweating, chills, diarrhea, and shaking. The physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening. You can avoid withdrawal symptoms if you gradually stop taking the opioids over a set period of time, as prescribed by your doctor.
Some of these medicines have acetaminophen in them. Check the labels on all the other nonprescription and prescription medicines you take. Many medicines have acetaminophen. Do not take two or more medicines with acetaminophen in them unless your doctor has told you to. Taking too much acetaminophen can be harmful. If you have questions about this, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Opiates may be considered if other medicines and treatments have not controlled your pain or are not safe for you. To make this decision, you and your doctor may consider:
Dry mouth is common with these medicines. To help with dry mouth, you can chew sugarless gum, suck on sugarless candy, or melt ice in your mouth. If you continue to have problems with dry mouth after a couple of weeks, call your doctor. Dry mouth can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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