Mixing Pain Medication after Spine Surgery

Category: Back Pain, Minimally Invasive Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: October 22, 2014

pain medicationPain medications are instrumental in controlling pain after spine surgery. But pain meds can be dangerous and addictive if not properly regulated. Certain drugs do not mix well and it’s important to know which medications you can safely take and when. With that in mind, this blog will discuss mixing pain medications after back surgery – and specifically answer the question:

Can I take Tylenol with Ibuprofen?

Post-Op Pain Meds

Immediately after your spine procedure, your surgeon will set you up with a pain control regimen that may include over the counter NSAIDs (like Tylenol or Ibuprofen) or stronger prescription opioids (like Norco). The latter are highly addictive and require strict regulation. If your doctor starts you on prescription opioid pain killers, you will be gradually weaned off of these drugs and on to less addictive, over the counter meds.

As a reminder, if you undergo any type of fusion procedure, you should avoid all NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, until otherwise instructed by your spine care provider. This is because they can potentially interfere with bone healing.

Ibuprofen with your Tylenol?

A specific question I hear a lot is whether or not it’s safe to take Ibuprofen and Tylenol simultaneously. Many patients see this as a way of “doubling up” on their pain meds. There is no simple answer to this question – though there are several rules of thumb to follow when combining pain killers. First and foremost is to never deviate from your doctor’s orders. It is also important to patiently follow the timing instructions for each drug. Don’t take 2 Ibuprofens and pop 4 more after 10 minutes when the pain is still present. Take your meds at the appropriate intervals. Failure to do so can lead to increased side effects like vomiting and dizziness.

Pain medications can have vastly different effects if a patient is already taking other medications (such as anti-depressants, or allergy meds). These medications can negatively interact and cause serious side effects, which is why it’s important to disclose medications, vitamins, and supplements to your physician and your pharmacist.

The bottom line, as usual, is to follow your surgeon’s recommendations exactly.

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