Back pain as side effect of taking medication

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

Citations

  • 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

Hi, I'm Dr. John Shim, and I'd like to talk about medications that actually cause back pain. Yes - you heard that right. There are medications that can cause back pain. Every medication can and do have side effects. So let's list the most common ones now. Levofloxacin or levaquin is an antibiotic taken for various conditions related to bacterial infections. Unfortunately, up to 25% of people who use this drug have complained of muscle aches and pains including back pain. Fortunately, the vast majority of these pains do resolve once the medication is discontinued. Your doctor must have a very good reason to prescribe this antibiotic. So, you may need to weigh the risks and benefits of continuing the antibiotic or change to another one, or to see if the muscle pains and back aches were resolved after having to stop the antibiotic. Cholesterol-lowering drugs called "statins" have about a 10 to 5 percent incidence of developing muscle aches and back pain. Most of the time the pains are minor, but there have been reports of significant back pain associated with this drug. As always, the risk of taking or not taking that drug must be weighed against the benefits of lowering the cholesterol levels. Isotretinoin is a common acne medicine used by many teens. There's an associated up to 10% incidence of muscle and back pain with use. Premarin is an estrogen hormone used by women for various conditions. It has also been associated with muscle aches and that has also been reported to cause back pain. Carvedilol or Coreg is a blood pressure medication that has been associated with muscle aches and pains. The take-home message is that medications that treat one part of the body may have side effects to the other parts. If you notice back pain and muscle aches after a recent change of your medications please consider that the cause of your back pain may be your medications. The last thing you want to do is to take additional medications to reduce this back pain if there's a simpler solution of just changing your medications or discontinuing them if the risk of discontinuance is low. I'm Dr. John Shim, discussing medications that can be a source of muscle ache and back pain. Please discuss these matters with your doctor if you have concerns. Thanks for watching.

3 thoughts on “Back pain as side effect of taking medication

  1. I take adderal 30mg in the capsule for for time release. I also take gabapetin for nerve damage and found the medication to really be more of a anti-depressant and it has work miracles for my mental health. Im not for sure if its the medication that causes the back pain but i suspect it might be. I am a Barber and it is my passion in life. But iys becoming hard to stand for long periods and im only 35. I have two sets of stairs in my house and i can only limit myself to about 5 times per day to go up and down. After that i am incapable of much. Today i have felt the.most pain of all! I am on the couch right now and am wondering what do i do next? Go to a hospital? Schedule appointment with doctor? I dunno what to do anymore it has been brushed off long enough and now i feel like a old man. What advise can u give me?

    1. It’s time to see a physician, review your medications and get to the bottom of your back pain. At 35 years of age, you are far too young to have these limitations on both your activity and your work. Good luck.

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