Have you ever heard of rescue medication? My older sister says this is what the nurse practitioner gave her for her chronic back pain. My sis seems to think this might work for her. What is it?
The use of strong pain-relieving medications is often referred to as rescue medication. Usually acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs are used first. But if the pain is too intense and doesn't respond well, then more powerful drugs are used for a short time. This is referred to as rescue medication.

Most of the time, these drugs are opioid analgesics. The patient is given a base dose and then this is increased until pain relief is obtained. Long-term use of opioid-based medications isn't advised. There is no term proof that long-term opioid analgesia improves function.

The most common use of this type of pharmacologic approach is for the patient with hyperacute low back pain. This is the person who can't move, straighten up, or even get in and out of bed. Immediate help is needed.

If improvement doesn't occur within the first week to 10 days, then a follow-up exam is warranted. The physician must re-evaluate the patient's presentation. Further testing and/or alternative treatment procedures may be required.