Adjuvant Medications for Back or Neck Pain

Woman rubbing sore neck
Adjuvant Pain Medication. Sam Edwards / Getty Images

Adjuvant Pain Medication Definition:

Adjuvant medications are classes of drugs that enhance the standard medical treatment for managing chronic back pain. Generally, adjuvants are prescribed for difficult to treat neuropathic back pain. According to Harry Gould, MD, author of the American Academy of Neurology's Understanding Pain, taking an adjuvant medication along with the treatment your doctor prescribes for you is likely to give you much better pain relief than just taking NSAIDs or Tylenol.

Adjuvant pain medications are often prescribed off-label, which means the FDA has not approved its use for treating back or neck pain. (Off-label prescribing is common practice, although some doctors are not comfortable with it.) Skeletal muscle relaxers, tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline, anticonvulsants and corticosteroids are some of the classes of drugs that are considered to be adjuvant.

Generally, adjuvants are used as temporary measures to get you back on your feet again. For example, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxer such as cyclobenzaprine (aka Flexeril) so that you can participate fully in physical therapy. Because you will likely be given exercises to do, the muscle relaxers can help you do them with less pain, which may help speed your progress.

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