What medications work best?

No one medication works better than any other, and with all medications, you have to weigh potential side effects. Most guidelines suggest acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic) as the first choice. It has a low complication rate and provides reasonable analgesia. The next-line medications are the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and generic), naproxen (Aleve and generic), and aspirin. Long-term use of opioids (codeine, morphine, or oxycodone) is probably not a good idea for treating lower-back pain, but the drugs may be needed for short-term pain relief if other treatments don't work.
I have chronic lower-back pain and degenerative changes. When my back flares up I generally take naproxen, and go either for massage or chiropractic treatment. I also try to go to the gym regularly. Studies that have been carried out suggest that no one exercise stands out as better than any other, but the amount of time you spend exercising is probably the most important factor, and it's recommended to increase it gradually and within your level of tolerance. A combination of cardiovascular exercise together with strengthening and mobilization exercises appears to be particularly important. I try to go to the gym at least three days a week and do one hour of cardio work, and alternate 15 minutes of abdominal/trunk exercises with 15 minutes of weights.

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