Dealing with minor aches and pains? Recovering from an injury or a medical procedure? Perhaps you have a medical condition that causes chronic pain. No matter your situation, if you're dealing with discomfort, pain relief should be a high priority in your health care.
Fortunately, there are numerous pain-relief options for patients and their doctors to choose from. Some are even available over the counter. Which choice is best for you depends on the type and intensity of pain you are experiencing, your overall health and lifestyle and whether there are risk factors that apply to you. Understanding your pain relief options is a great place to start on your road to feeling better.
Over-the-counter Pain Medications
There are two main types of over-the-counter, or OTC, pain-relief drugs: acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in brand-name drugs such as Tylenol, affects the way you perceive pain. It is gentler on the stomach than NSAIDs, but taking too much can damage your liver, especially if you also drink alcohol.
NSAIDs affect the release of a substance in your body that causes pain. They can also reduce inflammation. Some people experience stomach upset from taking the NSAID type of pain drugs, but taking them with food can help ease this problem.
Some common NSAID pain-relief medications include:
It is important to carefully read labels when buying OTC pain-relief or other medications. The active ingredients are often present in other drugs, such as cold and allergy medicines. A number of prescription drugs also contain these ingredients, so it is crucial to be aware of ingredients in the medicines you take. It can be easy to take too much without realizing it.
Prescription Pain Killers / Medications
For more serious pain, your doctor may need to prescribe a stronger pain reliever. Some prescription ? options include:
Corticosteroids—These ease inflammation, swelling, redness, itching and allergic reactions.
Opioids—Narcotic pain relievers, such as morphine, codeine and oxycodone, are often used to treat acute pain, such as pain after surgery. Because these pain medications can be habit-forming, it is usually best to limit the amount and duration of an opioid prescription.
Antidepressants—While these are most well-known for the treatment of mental health conditions, antidepressants can sometimes help ease chronic pain by encouraging feel- good chemical reactions in the brain.
Anticonvulsants—These are typically used to treat or prevent seizures, but they are sometimes effective at treating pain as well.
Prescription pain relievers carry more serious risks than OTC medications. Before taking them, talk with your doctor to make sure you can do so safely. Discuss the details of your current health, along with your health history. Tell your doctor about all other medicines you take, including OTC remedies, herbal remedies, supplements and vitamins. Your doctor will help determine the best pain reliever for you and your body. Make sure you understand potential side effects and symptoms that could be red flags for a serious reaction or overdose.
Managing pain relief
While the occasional headache is usually easy to treat and won't sideline you from day-to- day activities, those who are experiencing prolonged or chronic pain can often benefit from taking a proactive approach to pain management. Keep an open dialogue with your doctor about how you are feeling. If your pain-relief medicine doesn't seem to be working well enough or suddenly stops providing relief, your doctor may need to adjust your prescription. It may help to keep a pain journal to document your symptoms and when they occur so that you and your doctor can look for patterns. In some cases, you may benefit from other treatment approaches such as physical therapy or even alternative therapies.