As many new prescription drugs come to market to treat everything from cholesterol to erectile dysfunction, one of the biggest concerns for both patients and practitioners who prescribe these medications are side effects. Some medications do a great job at controlling a specific problem, but are so toxic that they cause others problems. One lesser known side effect of certain medications that is commonly overlooked is back pain. When I say back pain, I am referring to pain that is derived from bones, muscles, joints, discs, and nerves that originate and are part of the vertebral column. Patients commonly take medications to treat back pain, but perhaps a surprise to some, there are many medications that have the potential to cause back pain!
For example, commonly prescribed statin drugs, which are used to treat cholesterol, can cause muscle and joint pains along with numbness or tingling in the extremities. Verapamil, which is used to treat high blood pressure and chest pain also has been reported to cause back pain in a small percentage of patients.
From doing a little research, these are some of the most commonly prescribed medications that list a possible side effect of back pain. I have included the primary reason for taking the medication in parentheses. The mechanism of action and reason for the side effect is poorly understood for many of these. This is not an inclusive list.
Alendronate (osteoporosis) Nicotrol (nicotine cessation)
Ambien (sleep) Plavix (blood thinner)
Atenolol (blood pressure) Propanolol (blood pressure)
Bonvia (osteoporosis) Remicade (reduces inflammation)
Cardura (prostate hypertrophy) Simvastatin (cholesterol)
Crestor (cholesterol) Timoptic (glaucoma)
Depo-Provera (birth control) Topamax (migraine headaches)
Flomax (prostate hypertrophy) Verapamil (blood pressure)
Gabapentin (neuropathic pain) Xalantan (glaucoma)
Metoprolol (blood pressure) Zetia (cholesterol)
Again, these are some of the most common prescription drugs that patients take. There are several hundred drugs on the market that list or have had back pain reported as a side effect. Keep in mind that taking one of these medications does not mean you will experience back pain. A small percentage of patients may experience back pain as a side effect. Furthermore, the severity of the back pain may differ considerably from one person to another. As we know, the cause(s) of back pain can be multi-factorial. Recognition that medications do cause unintended side effects is important in helping to identify the source of a patient’s complaints
- Thai M, Hilmer S, Pearson SA, Reeve E, Gnjidic D. Prevalence of Potential and Clinically Relevant Statin-Drug Interactions in Frail and Robust Older Inpatients. Drugs Aging. 2015 Oct;32(10):849-56. PubMed PMID: 26442861