Medications for Managing Pain

Due to rapid advances in medicine, a wide variety of medications and treatments are available for acute, chronic and cancer pain. Patients often will be prescribed medications before receiving other forms of therapy. In addition, a pain medicine doctor may conclude that a combination of medication and treatments may be appropriate. A patient’s therapy plan will be tailored to their specific needs and circumstances.

Over the Counter

A pain medicine doctor may suggest that the use of certain over-the-counter pain relievers or may prescribe stronger medicine for a condition. Common pain relievers – Non-aspirin pain relievers such as acetaminophen can relieve headaches and minor pain but do not reduce swelling. They are sometimes used in combination with other drugs to provide greater pain relief.

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Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Aspirin, coated or buffered aspirin and aspirin with acetaminophen may be used to reduce swelling and irritation as well as to relieve pain. There also are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Anti-inflammatory drugs are used to relieve pain, inflammation. and fever. There also are steroidal drugs (like cortisol and prednisone), available only by prescription, that are used to treat more serious inflammatory conditions.

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Opioid Pain Medications

Morphine-like drugs called opioids are prescribed to treat acute pain or cancer pain. They are occasionally used for certain chronic and non-cancer pain as well. Many times pain management physicians will see patients previously treated by other physicians who have prescribed large doses of opioids and muscle relaxers for long periods of time. Many physicians who are not specialists in pain medicine will escalate medications instead of making changes and combining certain medications for optimum pain reduction. This type of over prescribing can lead to dependency and addiction issues.

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Anti-Depressants

These drugs were originally used only to treat depression. Studies now show, however, that they also are very effective in treating pain. Available only by prescription, they are sometimes used to treat insomnia.

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Anti-Seizure Medications

These medications are used to relieve what some patients describe as "shooting" pain by decreasing abnormal painful sensations caused by damaged nerves.

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Other Medicines

Pain medicine doctors may also prescribe other types of medication that will be helpful for specific pain problems. In addition, medications that counteract the side effects of opioids or treat the anxiety, sleeplessness and depression associated with pain may also be prescribed.

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