Pain Management Medicines

Your doctor understands pain and its emotional aspects. He recognizes that your pain is personal and includes the way you perceive and react to pain.  Pain can affect you in other ways too.  Perhaps you feel anxious, angry, short-tempered, or depressed.  Maybe you have difficulty sleeping, or you sleep too much.  If you feel like pain has taken over your life, you are not alone.

The purpose of this article is to introduce you to the types of medicines pain management doctors prescribe.  It does not imply that your doctor will prescribe all the drugs discussed, but provides an overview.  Being familiar with the terms can help you to have a more meaningful discussion with your doctor.

Types of drugs

Many types of drugs are available over-the-counter (OTC) and others only by a doctor’s prescription.  Sometimes your pain management program combines drugs, such as a narcotic with an anti-inflammatory drug.

Type Purpose
Acetaminophen Reduces inflammation, pain
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) Reduces inflammation, pain
Muscle relaxants Relieves muscle spasms, cramping
Narcotics (opioids) Reduces pain
Transdermal analgesics Pain reducing drug worn as a skin patch
Transdermal lidocaine Local anesthetic in patch form
Antihistamine Relieves insomnia
Sedative Relieves insomnia, anxiety
Anti-depressant Manages depression
Anti-seizure Manages neuropathic pain
Steroid Reduces inflammation
Topical cream Reduces inflammation, pain

Steps to reduce drug interaction

Your doctor is an excellent resource for information about drugs.  He knows what types of drugs can be safely combined to achieve maximum pain relief.  However, your doctor needs to know about drugs you take for other problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.  Vitamins and herbal supplements may seem harmless, but when combined with certain drugs can cause a serious reaction.

  • Talk with your doctor before adding an OTC, herbal supplement or homeopathic product, as these can cause serious drug interactions.
  • Tell your doctor if you have allergies, or develop an allergy to a drug.
  • Use one pharmacy for all drugs, including OTC, vitamins, and supplements.  It is more convenient and safer for you.
  • When you obtain a new medication read the information your pharmacist provides. If you have questions, contact your doctor.

Potential side effects

Constipation is a common side effect of narcotics and other pain relievers.  Constipation can be relieved using a laxative.  Talk with your doctor about which product he recommends for you.

Some side effects are serious and require medical care.  If you develop any of these problems, immediately contact your doctor or seek urgent medical care.

  • Tarry stools
  • Hives, skin rash, itching
  • Behavioral changes
  • Severe confusion or fatigue
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Severe weakness
  • Experience hallucinations
  • Trouble breathing
  • Facial swelling
  • Trouble urinating
  • Fast or slow heartbeat
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes

Feel better

Remember, pain management is all about you!  Periodically, your medication and doses may need to be adjusted.  Medicine is just one part of a comprehensive treatment plan that may include acupuncture, spinal injections and physical therapy.  Although your treatment plan is updated from time to time, your treatment goals remain the same—reduce pain, increase function, and improve your quality of life.

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