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Chronic Pain


Chronic pain is pain that does not get better for 6 weeks or longer. There are many causes, including nerve or muscle pain, arthritis, infection, or a fracture. Chronic pain may hurt all the time, or come and go.



  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs help decrease pain and swelling. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, ask your primary healthcare provider (PHP) if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Prescription pain medicine , such as narcotics, may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.
  • Anesthetics can be rubbed on your skin to block pain signals.
  • Other medicines may reduce pain, anxiety, muscle tension, or swelling.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your PHP if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your PHP as directed:

You may be referred to a pain specialist. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Manage your chronic pain:

  • Apply heat on the area in pain for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Apply ice on the part of your body that hurts for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice decreases pain and swelling, and helps prevent tissue damage.
  • Go to physical therapy. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.
  • Exercise for 20 to 30 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week. Regular physical activity can help decrease pain and improve your quality of life. Ask your PHP about the best exercise plan for your type of pain.
  • Talk with a counselor or therapist. A type of counseling called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help your chronic pain by changing the way you think about it. CBT can also improve your mood, sleep, and ability to move.
  • Get enough sleep. Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon.

What you must know if you take narcotic pain medicine:

  • The most common side effect of narcotics is constipation. You may be given medicine to soften your stool and make it easier to have a bowel movement. Other side effects include nausea, vomiting, and skin itchiness.
  • Do not mix narcotics with other narcotics. This can cause an overdose of medicine, which can become life-threatening. Read labels. Make sure you know the ingredients in all of your medicines.
  • Do not drink alcohol when you take narcotics. It is not safe to mix narcotics with alcohol or illegal drugs.
  • Narcotics may impair your ability to drive or work safely. They may also cause dizziness and increase your risk for falling.
  • You may need more narcotics over time to control your pain. This is called tolerance. Narcotics can also become addictive. Talk to your PHP if you have concerns about tolerance or addiction.
  • Store narcotics in a safe location at home. Keep your medicine away from children and other people. Never share your medicine with anyone.

Contact your PHP if:

  • You have difficulty sleeping.
  • Your pain gets worse, even after you take your medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek immediate care or call 911 if:

  • You are breathing slower than normal, or you have trouble breathing.
  • You cannot be awakened.
  • You have a seizure.
  • Your heart is beating slower than normal.
  • Your heart feels like it is jumping or fluttering.
  • You cannot think clearly.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.