How to Reduce Physical Pain with Medication

Three Methods:Choosing The Right Pain MedicationUsing Over-The-Counter Medication For Mild PainUsing Prescription Medication For Acute or Chronic Pain

Pain can be difficult to deal with. Whether it’s a headache, an injury, or chronic pain, most people use medication to treat it. Over-the-counter pain medication can be used without a doctor’s help, while prescription pain medication can be used safely under the care of your physician for more severe pain. Learn how to choose the right medication to reduce physical pain.

Method 1
Choosing The Right Pain Medication

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    Determine the type of pain you have. The pain medication you use depends on the type of physical pain you have. You should decide if you have mild, moderate, or severe pain. Then decide if the pain is acute, which means severe but temporary, or chronic, lasting for a long time or a returning condition.[1]
    • Figure out the location of the pain. Some pain medications may be better suited to certain areas of your body.
    • Figure out if the pain is interrupting your life by making it hard to go to work, eat, or sleep.
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    Make a list of other conditions and medications. The type of pain medication you take can depend on a few factors. Some medications don’t mix, so you might not be able to take certain pain medications if you are on other medications.[2]
    • If you have other medical conditions, you may be unable to take particular pain medicines.
    • Make a list of all medication you take and medical conditions you have. Check these against the warnings on pain medications before you take them.
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    Follow all directions carefully. When you take pain medications, make sure to read the directions carefully. Some medications have side effects that might affect your daily life. Most pain medications have daily limits and minimum time between dosages.[3]
    • Taking too much pain medication can cause negative side effects.
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    See your doctor. Before you take any pain medication, especially for severe or chronic pain, you should visit your doctor. When you talk to your doctor, explain the pain, including the location and intensity of the pain.
    • You should be honest with your doctor about your medical history, along with medications you take. Your physician can help you determine the best pain medication to take for your particular situation.

Method 2
Using Over-The-Counter Medication For Mild Pain

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    Read all directions and labels. Before taking over-the-counter medication, make sure to read the labels. Look for the active ingredients on the package. The brand name might suggest one ingredient, but the active ingredient may be something different.[4]
    • Pay attention to dosage. Many OTC pain relievers are sold in different dosage strengths. One capsule might be 100 mg while another might be 500 mg. Also check for words like “extra strength” on the label.
    • Reading the label helps you know the ingredients in the medicine you are taking. This is helpful when trying to refrain from taking multiple medications with the same ingredient.
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    Use NSAIDs for most minor physical pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are common pain relievers for mild pain management. Common NSAIDs are aspirin, naproxen or Aleve, and ibuprofen, Advil, or Motrin. NSAIDs also reduce inflammation.[5] Use NSAIDs for the following conditions:[6]
    • Injury with inflammation, such as a muscle strain or pull
    • Arthritis
    • Menstrual cramps
    • Headache
    • Bruise or abrasion
    • Minor pain post surgery
    • Sore muscles
    • Tooth ache
    • Kidney stones
    • Back pain
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    Try acetaminophen for many minor physical aches. Acetaminophen is a common drug used for minor pain relief and to help sooth aches. The most common product containing the drug is Tylenol.[7] You can use acetaminophen to treat:[8]
    • Headaches and migraines
    • Bruises and scrapes
    • Minor pain after surgery
    • Muscle aches
    • Arthritis
    • Toothaches
    • Back pain
    • Kidney stones
    • Nerve pain
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    Take antacids for gastrointestinal issues. Antacids or anti-ulcer drugs can help with stomach pain due to ulcers, heartburn, indigestion, or acid reflux. There are four types of these drugs: proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), H2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs), Misoprostol, and antacids.
    • Common antacid and antiulcer medications include Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Zantac, Tagamet, Pepcid, Cytotec, Tums, and Rolaids.
    • Side effects of PPIs include increased bone fractures in people over 50. Women should not take misoprostol pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
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    Try topical pain relievers. Depending on the type of pain you have, you can try topical pain relievers. This type of pain medication comes in creams, lotions, and sprays you place directly on the skin.[9]
    • The use of topical pain medication can be for sore muscles and arthritis.
    • Topical pain treatments include Aspercreme, Ben-Gay, and Icy Hot.
    • Side effects include burning or stinging on the skin. You shouldn’t use topical pain medication on broken or irritated skin.
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    Know the side effects for NSAIDs and acetaminophen. Each over-the-counter pain medication has side effects that may occur while taking it. Some of these side effects may also be a result of misuse.[10]
    • NSAIDs may cause headache, nausea, an upset stomach, skin rash, stomach ulcer, fatigue, dizziness, increased blood pressure, indigestion, and problems sleeping. NSAIDs may also increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke.[11]
    • Acetaminophen can cause stomach irritation, allergic reactions in some people, like people with asthma, ringing in the ears, kidney damage, and a reduction in clotting. If you take more than the recommended amount, it can cause liver damage.[12]
    • Avoid giving aspirin to children because aspirin has been linked to Reye’s syndrome with children.
    • Talk to your healthcare provider before taking NSAIDs if you have high blood pressure, kidney disease, or gastrointestinal bleeding.
    • Don’t take acetaminophen if you drink more than three alcoholic beverages a day. You should also talk to your doctor if you have had liver disease before taking acetaminophen.[13]

Method 3
Using Prescription Medication For Acute or Chronic Pain

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    Try short-acting opioids for acute pain. Opioids are prescription narcotic pain relievers. They are used for acute pain, generally after surgery. Your physician can also provide opioids to you intravenously in a medical setting.[14] Opioids are generally prescribed for:
    • Moderate to severe burns
    • Moderate to severe wounds
    • Moderate to severe fractures or sprains
    • Kidney stones
    • Common opioids include oxycodone, Demerol, hydrocodone, and codeine.
    • Opioids do not cause stomach bleeding. People rarely get addicted to opioids if they are used for short periods of time to treat acute pain.
    • Side effects of opioids are nausea, constipation, breathing problems, and drowsiness. If the use of opioids is abused, patients can get abused.
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    Use long-acting opioids for chronic pain. Long-lasting, slow release opioids can be used in the treatment for chronic pain. This needs to be discussed with your physician, and you should be monitored while taking them. In some cases, patients have formed an addition to these opioids.[15]
    • Examples of long-lasting opioids include morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and methadone.
    • Side effects include nausea, vomiting, mental impairment, constipation, and drowsiness. Opioids can be dangerous used with antidepressants, sleeping pills, and antihistamines.
    • Over a third of people who use opioids for chronic pain management have constipation and must manage that with diet and laxatives.
    • Taking opioids for an extended amount of time can result in tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
    • Never stop taking opioids without using a physician-approved weaning method.
    • The use of opioids for chronic pain not due to cancer is controversial. The controversy is due to the prolonged use, safety, effectiveness, and potential for abuse.[16] Discuss with your doctor whether this option is right for you.
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    Use corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are commonly used for bony, visceral, and neuropathic pain. This medication should be used in the lowest dose possible because of the common side effects. Because side effects are cumulative, they should also be used for short periods of time, not lasting longer than 3 weeks.[17]
    • Corticosteroids are used for arthritis, sore throat, and cancer pain. They also help reduce swelling, inflamed areas, and redness.
    • Common side effects include weight gain, muscle weakness, insomnia, gastrointestinal issues, delerium, depression, anxiety, infections, and hyperglycemia.
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    Consider antidepressants for chronic pain. Even if you don’t have depression, depression medication may be effective in the treatment of your chronic pain. The reason they help with pain isn’t quite understood. However, they are commonly prescribed in a chronic pain management treatment plan.[18] Antidepressants are used for:
    • Nerve damage due to diabetes, shingles, or other conditions
    • Arthritis
    • Migraines or tension headaches
    • Facial pain
    • Lower back pain
    • Pelvic pain
    • Fibromyalgia
    • It can take a few weeks to feel pain relief from antidepressants. Most people feel moderate pain relief.
    • Anticonvulsants or antiepileptics may be used along with antidepressants for pain management.
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    Consider cannabinoids for chronic pain. Medical marijuana is now legal in some states. Doctors can now prescribe medical marijuana for chronic pain in some patients. Some doctors won’t prescribe or recommend marijuana for pain. Other physicians might refuse to let patients use marijuana along with opioids.[19]
    • If you smoke marijuana, either medical or recreational, along with taking any other recreational drugs, you should discuss this openly with your physician. Some medications can react negatively with recreational drugs, including marijuana.
    • Side effects include severe respiratory illnesses, reduced productivity, impaired judgment, impaired cognitive performance, and impaired neuropsychological activity.
    • Using medical marijuana in a state where marijuana is illegal can result in a drug charge.

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Categories: Pain Management and Recovery