Pharmacy Corner
Low Back Pain Commonly used medications for low back pain

What medications are available over-the-counter for low back pain?

Acetaminophen (Tylenol®)6

Acetaminophen is often a first choice for many people suffering from low back pain. It is a pretty safe medication as long as you do not take more than the maximum amount written on the label. In Canada, the maximum you can take is two extra strength (500 mg) tablets up to 4 times per day.

Always check with your pharmacist

Taking more than the recommended amount of acetaminophen may cause severe liver damage. People accidentally take too much acetaminophen because it is in many other products like over-the-counter sleeping aids, allergy and cold medications.

Talk to your pharmacist when taking two types of over-the-counter medications to make sure you are not taking too much.

Ibuprofen, naproxen (Advil®, Aleve®)6

Available over-the-counterPrescription only
Ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®)Celecoxib (Celebrex®)
Naproxen (Aleve®)Meloxicam (Mobicox®)
Diclofenac (Voltaren®)

Please note that this table only contains commonly used prescription-only anti-inflammatory medications.
It is not a complete list.

Ibuprofen, naproxen and other anti-inflammatory medications are used to reduce pain and help with inflammation in the body. The following table lists the brand and generic (in brackets) names of medications in this class used for low back pain.

The most common side effects of anti-inflammatory medications are nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, dizziness and headaches. A very small number of people are allergic to anti-inflammatory drugs. You should not take them if you are allergic to Aspirin® and if you get a severe rash, have difficulty breathing or feel very dizzy or lightheaded you should seek immediate medical help.

Precautionary Tip

Before taking an anti-inflammatory medication, you should always talk to your pharmacist and let him/her know about your medical conditions and medications, especially if you:

  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are on a blood thinner
  • Have kidney disease
  • Have or had a stomach condition such as an ulcer

Available over-the-counterPrescription only
Methocarbamol (Robaxin®)** Baclofen (Lioresal®)
Orphenadrine (Norflex®) Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril®)
Tizanidine (Zanaflex®)

**Many over-the-counter products contain methocarbamol in combination with other ingredients. It may be under different names such as Robaxisal®, Robaxicet®, or Tylenol Back Pain®. Ask your pharmacist which choice is best for you.

Medications that relaxes your muscles: Muscle Relaxants7

Muscle relaxants do exactly what their name suggests, they relax your muscles. They are normally used for short-term relief only, not as regular medications. The following table lists the brand and generic (in brackets) names of medications in this class used for low back pain.

Before taking a muscle relaxant over-the-counter, talk to your pharmacist. Ask your pharmacist how long and how often you can take a muscle relaxant. Some of these medications can cause problems in people on medications for chronic conditions.

The most common side effects of these medications include dry mouth, tiredness, trouble passing stool, and feeling drowsy and dizzy.

Precautionary Tip

Muscle relaxants can make you feel drowsy and dizzy. You should take this medication at bedtime to avoid feeling sleepy during the day. Avoid driving or operating heavy machinery when taking these medications.