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Opioid Pain Management


An opioid is a type of medicine used to treat pain. Examples of opioids are oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl, or codeine.


Call 911 or have someone call 911 for any of the following:

  • You are breathing slower than normal, or you have trouble breathing.
  • You cannot be awakened.
  • You have a seizure.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your heart is beating slower than usual.
  • Your heart feels like it is jumping or fluttering.
  • You are so sleepy that you cannot stay awake.
  • You have severe muscle pain or weakness.
  • You see or hear things that are not real.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You are too dizzy to stand up.
  • Your pain gets worse or you have new pain.
  • You cannot do your usual activities because of side effects from the opioid.
  • You are constipated or have abdominal pain.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Opioid safety measures:

  • Take your medicine as directed. Ask if you need more information on how to take your medicine correctly. Follow up with your healthcare provider regularly. You may need to have your dose adjusted. Do not use opioid medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Give your healthcare provider a list of all your medicines. Include any over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbs. It can be dangerous to take opioids with other medicines.
  • Keep opioid medicine in a safe place. Store your opioid medicine in a locked cabinet to keep it away from children and others.
  • Do not drink alcohol while you use opioids. Alcohol combined with an opioid can make you sleepy and slow your breathing rate. You may stop breathing completely.

Other ways to manage your 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 as directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Regular physical activity can help decrease pain and improve your quality of life. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for your type of pain.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.