Wednesday, November 12, 2008 JN405, Community Member, asks

Q: Are there any meds I can take for my lower back pain that won't make me sleepy?

I'm in college and am finding it hard to be mentality "sharp." Looking for any suggestions. My pain is intolerable without hydrocodone/Acetamin 5-500 mg. The only time I find I can really study effectively is in the am when I have taken my adipex (rx for appetite suppression) and that is short lived. All other times I'm in a "fog" and I hate it. Frown



Answer This
Answers (10)
11/12/08 11:53pm
I have yet to find a pain medication that does not have the potential to cause side effects, especially drowsiness. Some people can even get drowsy with ibuprofen or Tylenol. Are there medications that do not cause side effects? No, none that I know about. So, the question I ask a client sitting in front of me is "Can we find a way to control your pain without chemicals?" For back pain, I absolutely suggest the Zero Gravity Chairs like the Perfect Chair by Human Touch ( or the LaFuma chair (can be found on I am using one right now to work on my laptop. Pain relief does not have to be just about medications. And those darn medications just do not come without side effects. If you just cannot get by without medications, then trying different ones (tramadol, percocet, Darvocet) might cause less drowsiness. Everyone is different, so it is a trial and error process, customized for you. Stay in school and keep dreaming. Dr. Christina Lasich, MD Reply
basketpam, Community Member
11/13/08 10:13am

Instead of an oral pain medication, what about a pain patch.  When I switched to wearing a pain patch and changing it every 48 hours I found my pain had better control and with less side effects.  It may be worth checking into. 

ALifeWorthLiving, Community Member
11/13/08 6:57pm

Has the doctor determined the cause of the pain?  If it is purely muscular, the best things to do are stretches to loosen up the muscles and ice.


I woke up in Jan. 2006 and could not move without excruciating pain in my lower back, couldn't walk, get up, sit down, lay down, etc.  I took 800 mg of ibuprofen, to no avail.  Luckily, it was a week day and I was able to get in to see a chiropractor who also told me the importance of doing stretches to alleviate the muscle tension that was causing me so much pain.  It was the first time that I had been to a chiropractor where I was told there were things I could do, other than returning to the chiropractor every day, to get better.


I still have lower back problems, particularly when sitting for a long time...bleachers are the worst.  Thankfully, I am armed with stretching techniques that I can do at home to reduce the pain.  That an icing (not heat) are great ways to alleviate pain without the need for the meds you are talking about.


If you know any athletes, they would be able to tell you some good excercises that stretch, leg, gluts and lower back muscles.


judijh, Community Member
11/13/08 6:59pm

For me, the over-the-counter pain reliever Aleve does wonders.  And I have not once had it make me sleepy.  Do be careful though as some people cannot take it... I don't know what their reactions are, but they heavily avoid taking the med.

LaughSing, Community Member
11/13/08 9:24pm
It's possible to adjust to many pain meds, but everybody's body is different, and you have to find what works for yours. :( (Sorry it's not better news!) I'd suggest trying anti-inflammatory supplements, over-the-counter stuff, as suggested in Dr. Nicholas Perricone's books. It's absolutely amazing how much that helps some people. But if that doesn't work, and if life on meds isn't working for you, there are other options. You can try all sorts of things, depending on what is wrong, you should exhaust the available treatment options of a chiropractor, a physical therapist, a physiatrist, a personal trainer, a yoga teacher, and several pain management specialist MDs. Yes, several MDs. They all approach pain management from different angles, some from the physical side, some from the medication side, and until you've tried all of the different things, you don't know what will work for you. I must have tried a dozen different meds, shots everywhere, exercising everything, chiropractic, massage, physical therapy in the water... about everything except aromatherapy. ;) At the end of the day... they still may not know why you're in pain. But there are things they can do that are amazing. I've got a spinal cord stimulator, it interrupts the pain signal, so I don't know that it hurts (for a while, anyway). There are pain pumps, that deliver meds right to the source of the pain. There are procedures to zap the nerves in the area. But you have to be persistent, and try all sorts of things, and advocate for your own health. Reply
amanda, Community Member
11/14/08 10:03am

you can also try takeing a non-narcatioc med.. ask your doctor about it... it really help but some people cannot take it sooo ... it can only be priscribed by your doctorl...

Carolyn Wants A Cure, Community Member
11/16/08 7:43am

There are anti inflammatory medicines that may be of help and also certain muscle relaxers, such as skelaktin, that have less drowsy side effects compared to other relaxants.  You could do both at the same time with your physicians guidance. 


Getting a good chair where you are studying and practicing good posture while doing it can help tremendously. 


If you are able to do abdominal strengthening exercises, such as crunches, without risk of seriously hurting your back (ask your physician) they could be of major benefit for you.  Your abs help to support your back and ab weakness has alway lead to a high percent of back pain and discomfort.


I disagree with the ice therapy as the only consideration. A great way to help certain types and places of pain is to first use ice for 20 minutes (it will push the blood out of that area where your blood vessels are located) Then directly after the ice is removed, place heat on the area for 20 minutes (it will bring the blood back quickly to that area and will quickly open your blood vessels up very wide, which is the key, compared to before the time when you began.  The vessels will receive the heat much more effectively that way.


You're a student and good sleep patterns will, without a doubt, always lessen pain.  (Did you know that?  It's not a very well known fact yet so true.)


If you can't afford the time or money to join a gym with some initial trainer guidance, which is usually offered at no charge the first time, you could go on a guest pass for a week or so and ask for a trainer to show you stretching and some light toning for body parts.  There are so many exercises that you can find by googling, so you shouldn't even have to go to the gym. 


It all boils down to how severe your back is injured and exactly what is causing the pain.  I would recommend a reputable spine center (ask other students for a referral or get a referral from your family physician, if you have one at school)


I just had a friend have back surgery on Tuesday this week and she was better right after surgery!  Her sciatica pain stopped and other underlying more back pain has improved.  She said she feels 90% better!  It was an outpatient procedure, easy.  She had a cyst on her spine and they got rid of it by bursting it.


Always do the least invasive first.  You don't have to go to everyone you can think of, because that would be very expensive.  Try some accupuncture, accupressure, etc..


Last, but not least ... try TaiChi!!  It's fantastic!








LP, Community Member
11/17/08 6:58pm

Have you tried tramadol (Ultram)? It can also cause drowsiness but for me it seems not too. I then use vicodan for breakthrough pain when I don't need to be alert. It sort of works for me. It might work differently for you. Keep good communication about it with your MD. Good luck! LP

snoopy_4, Community Member
11/21/08 4:50pm

i've found tramadol works for me. i started with 1 tablet and now take 2 every 4 to 6 hours it doesn't make me sleepy and it does work for the pain. if you have a heating pad that has a long cord on it. you can try that at the same time that you take your meds that seems to help me. as long as your in your dorm or just studying in a chair your should be ok. the warmth and the meds will eventually work. good luck!Smile

freedomschild, Community Member
11/25/08 11:14pm



After falling from a cliff (just 2 days before Christmas '05), I was on a ventilator and after being on pain killers for half my life, (getting any real lasting relief in the HOSPITAL YET!).; I was near  blind with pain in my back.  I had broken a part of my back, all my ribs, contusions...anyway, after just having gotten off ALL NARCOTICS WHICH I'D BEEN TAKING FOR THE PREVIOUS 20 YEARS, I woke to find myself back on them.  I was desolate.  One of the nurses carried around those bags you pop! and it gets cold or hot, as needed.  I was grabbing for anything to add to the rest of the regimine, so utilized those as well.  Once I was out of the hospital, I found BIOFREEZE.  It is a gel, which is not greasy, smelly, just helps!  A family member who had massive back injuries gave me a tube and I really want to offer that piece of information to  you.  I hope it helps.  Certainly, there are great and enormously helpful, health rendering depots if only it would be covered by insurance.  I'm speaking of Acupuncture (I have used this and find it GENUINELY GOOD, EVEN WHEN YOU DON'T HURT.).  Chicropractor treatments, massage...   The main thing is that you find what works for you and bang the drum loudly (the patients who are the most vocal get the help...squeaking wheel gets the oil, sort of thing).   You have a RIGHT to PAIN RELIEF.  I would encourage Marajuana (if the federal govt. would get out and stay out of that crucible.  The state I live in says it is OK; but the clinics for dr. prescriptions have been raided, time and time again by the federal agents.  \

    I'm wishing you well, in the  spirit of all that is of Integrity and  Human Compassion.


Answer This

We hope you find this general health information helpful. Please note however, that this Q&A is meant to support not replace the professional medical advice you receive from your doctor. No information in the Answers above is intended to diagnose or treat any condition. The views expressed in the Answers above belong to the individuals who posted them and do not necessarily reflect the views of Remedy Health Media. Remedy Health Media does not review or edit content posted by our community members, but reserves the right to remove any material it deems inappropriate.

By JN405, Community Member— Last Modified: 04/01/14, First Published: 11/12/08