Chronic Pain Medicines
What drugs can treat chronic pain?
Many medicines can decrease pain, including the ones listed
below. Each one may have side effects. Some side effects can be serious. It's important to listen to your family doctor carefully
when he or she tells you how to use your pain medicine. If you have questions about side effects or about how much medicine
to take, ask your doctor or your pharmacist.
Acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol) helps many kinds
of chronic pain. Remember, many over-the-counter and prescription pain medicines have acetaminophen in them. If you're not
careful, you could take more acetaminophen than is good for you. Taking too much acetaminophen could cause liver damage. If
you often have to take more than 2 acetaminophen pills a day, tell your doctor.
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Other drugs that help with pain are called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs, or NSAIDs. Examples include aspirin, ibuprofen (two brand names: Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (two brand names: Aleve
[over the counter], Naprosyn [prescription]). These medicines can be taken just when you need them, or they can be taken every
day. When these medicines are taken regularly they build up in the blood to levels that fight the pain of inflammation (swelling)
and also give general pain relief. Many of these medicines are available in low-dose forms without a prescription.
If your doctor wants you to take an NSAID, always take it
with food or milk because the most common side effects are related to the stomach. If you are taking other pain medicines,
don't take NSAIDs without first talking to your doctor.
Narcotics can be addictive, so your family doctor will be
careful about prescribing them. For many people with severe chronic pain, these drugs are an important part of their therapy.
If your doctor prescribes narcotics for your pain, be sure to carefully follow his or her directions. Tell your doctor if
you are uncomfortable with the changes that may go along with taking these medicines, such as inability to concentrate or
think clearly. Do not drive when taking these medicines.
When you're taking narcotics, it's important to remember
that there is a difference between "physical dependence" and "psychological addiction." Physical dependence on a medicine
means that your body gets used to that medicine and needs it to work properly. When you don't have to take the pain medicine
any longer, your doctor can help you slowly and safely decrease the amount of medicine until your body no longer "needs" it.
Psychological addiction is the desire to use a drug whether
or not it's needed to relieve pain. Using a narcotic this way can be dangerous and may not help your pain. If you have a psychological
addiction to a narcotic, your doctor may give you another drug to help with your psychological problems. Or your doctor might
recommend that you talk to a counselor. Your doctor might also change the medicine that you are addicted to by lowering the
dose, changing to another drug or stopping the medicine altogether.
Narcotic drugs often cause constipation (difficulty having
bowel movements). If you are taking a narcotic medicine, it's important to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day.
Try to eat 2 to 4 servings of fresh fruits and 3 to 5 servings of vegetables every day. Be sure to tell your doctor if constipation
becomes a problem for you. He or she may suggest taking laxatives to treat or prevent it.
Many drugs that are used to treat other illnesses can also
treat pain. For example, carbamazepine (one brand name: Tegretol) is a seizure medication that can treat some kinds of pain.
Amitriptyline (one brand name: Elavil) is an antidepressant that can also help with chronic pain in many people. Your doctor
may want you to try one of these medicines to help control your pain. It can take several weeks before these medicines begin
to work well.
Remember -- if you are taking any pain medicine, be sure
to ask your doctor or pharmacist before you take any other medicine, either prescription or over-the-counter.
Are drugs the only way to treat chronic pain?
Many other treatments can also decrease pain. They can actually change the body's chemicals that produce pain. Almost anything
we do to relax or get our minds off our problems may help control pain. It's important to add relaxing activities to
your daily life, even if you are already taking medicine for pain. You might have to use stress reduction methods for several
weeks before you notice a decrease in pain. Your doctor can give you tips about stress reduction and relaxation methods.
Understanding Chronic Pain
or a loved one suffers from chronic pain, then you already understand how chronic pain and illness can take their toll.
persists and does not respond to medical therapy impairs your ability to perform basic tasks of daily living. It can also
sap your strength and spirit, and jeopardize relationships with the people closest to you. Understanding how pain works is
an important first step in finding a therapy that brings you relief, restoring your ability to participate in the activities
and with the people you enjoy most.
Is a Natural Response
Pain is the bodys natural response to physical harm or possible damage to tissue or organs. Pain
occurs when specialized nerve endings, called pain receptors or nociceptors, are activated by injury or illness.
millions of nociceptors located throughout your body. Nociceptors can be triggered by acute or chronic diseases, as well as
various types of injury, including trauma, excessive heat or cold, physical pressure, or chemical changes within body tissues
that signal damage.
Fibers Send Pain Messages to the Brain
When a pain receptor is activated at the site of the injury or illness, it triggers
the release of chemical messengers that transmit the pain message to the brain. This message is relayed across a pain nerve
pathway. The pathway begins at the nerve ending, and is carried along the nerve fiber to where the nerve enters the spinal
cord. When the message reaches the spinal cord, it is transmitted to the brain, which interprets the electrical impulse as
the feeling we call pain. This unpleasant sensation instantly prompts you to do something to stop the source of pain.
Types of Pain
There are two types of pain: nociceptive pain and neuropathic pain. Each is differentiated by its cause,
how long it lasts, what it feels like, and the types of medical treatment to which it responds.
Nociceptive pain is caused when specific nerve endings called nociceptors
are irritated. Nociceptive pain is the type of pain you feel when you burn your hand, twist your ankle, or stub your toe.
Nociceptive pain is characterized by a dull or sharp aching pain, and it can be mild or severe. The pain can usually be controlled
if the cause of the irritation is removed, or otherwise medically treated. Nociceptive pain usually responds well to mild
pain medications, anti-inflammatory agents, or other drug therapies. Nociceptive pain can be a temporary condition, such as
when you have a sprained ankle or a stiff neck. In certain conditions, however, nociceptive pain can be a chronic condition.
Cancer pain and arthritis pain are common types of chronic nociceptive pain.
Neuropathic pain is caused by dysfunction or damage to the nervous system,
through injury, disease, or localized insult or trauma (for example, an infection or surgery). Neuropathic pain is sharp,
intense and constant in nature. It is often described as an extremely painful burning, tingling, shocking, or shooting pain.
Neuropathic pain is also very stubborn. It usually does not respond as effectively to standard pain therapies such as mild
analgesics and other pain medications.
Challenge of Chronic Pain
When pain lasts for a long time, it is called chronic pain. At what point pain becomes chronic
pain varies somewhat among medical professionals. Many doctors consider pain to be chronic when it has lasted for six months
chronic pain is one of the most pressing healthcare issues in the world. In the United States alone, more than 34 million
people suffer with some type of chronic pain. Chronic pain takes its toll on personal lives, healthcare resources and the
economy, too. More than half of chronic pain sufferers are partially or totally disabled. In fact, chronic pain disables more
people than cancer or heart disease, and it costs the American public more than both cancer and heart disease combined more
than $100 billion in medical expenses annually