Pain Medication Management

Frequently asked questions about Pain Medication Management

What are the different types of pain medication?

There are many different types of pain medication. Pain medications that act on muscles are anti-inflammatory and corticosteroids. Acetaminophen is used to increase the body’s ability to handle pain. Opioids actually change the way the brain views pain. It actually works in the brain to tell us there is no pain. Muscle relaxants are another type of medication that acts on muscles that are in spasms. Anti-anxiety medication will reduce anxiety, help patients cope with pain, and also relax the muscles. Medications that stop pain transmission through the spinal cord are called anti-depressants. The medications that can stabilize nerve cells are called anti-convulsions. Each type of medication serves a different type of pain.

What are the differences between the different types of pain medication?

There are basically two different types of medication. There are non-prescription and prescription medication. A few examples on non-prescription drugs are the anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Non-prescription drugs are mostly used for short term, mild pain. The stronger anti-inflammatory drugs are only available with a prescription that is prescribed by a physician. Opioids are also pain killers that need a prescription and are called a controlled substance. These drugs have to follow special rules in order to be administered such as limiting the amount available at one time and also the length of time between filling prescriptions. This is all very strictly regulated. Other prescription medications include anti-seizure and anti-depressants which both also have pain relieving properties.

What is the difference between an opioid and an anti-inflammatory?

Anti-inflammatory drugs have a “ceiling effect”, which means that there is a limit to how much pain can be relieved. After you reach a certain amount, the drug stops working and side effects become much more apparent. Opioids have no ceiling which is why they are so effective in relieving pain when pain is severe.

What is the strongest pain medication?

Opioid analgesics are the strongest form of pain medication. Of the most common opioids, morphine is the strongest and codeine is the weakest. There are stronger medications than morphine such as fentanyl but they are not prescribed often

What are the side effects a person can get from pain medication?

Over the counter drugs like anti-inflammatory ones can cause ulcers and bleeding in the stomach if taken in large doses or over extended periods of time. If acetaminophen is taken in large doses, there may be liver damage. Opioids cause drowsiness, constipation, dizziness, and respiratory slowing. These also can be addicting. Muscle relaxants can cause drowsiness as well as anti-anxiety medications. They also cause restlessness, nightmares, visual problems, nausea and headache. Anti-depressants can cause severe side effects such as blurred vision, constipation, difficulty with vision, and dry mouth. These must be taken as directed when used for pain. Anti-seizure medications also cause dizziness, and drowsiness in addition to swelling of legs. If corticosteroids are taken long term, there are problems with glaucoma, cataracts, bone death, and adrenal gland malfunctions.

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