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Medications for Pain

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on Dec 1, 2023.

Choosing pain relief depends on factors like pain type, severity (see below), and health conditions. Options include:

  • Acetaminophen: For mild-to-moderate pain, safe if taken correctly
  • NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, etc.): Reduce mild-to-moderate pain and inflammation, not suitable for certain conditions
  • Combination medications: such as acetaminophen/aspirin
  • Topical NSAIDs: such as diclofenac gel or patches
  • Topical rubs, creams, or salves, such as those that contain methyl salicylate (Arthricare, Exocaine Plus), capsaicin, lidocaine, and menthol (LidoStream, Veltrix), or combinations of these. These deliver pain relief through the skin
  • Mild opioids (codeine, tramadol, etc.): For moderate-to-severe short-term pain, may cause side effects and dependency
  • Combination mild pain relievers and opioids, such as acetaminophen/hydrocodone
  • Cortisone injections: May be considered if oral medications don't improve pain and can provide short-term relief. This involves injecting corticosteroids such as methylprednisolone (Depo-Medrol) around nerves
  • Antidepressants (amitriptyline, nortriptyline, etc.): Low doses can relieve certain chronic nerve pains, and must be taken consistently
  • Gabapentinoids (gabapentin, pregabalin): Provide nerve pain relief, require consistent daily use
  • Muscle Relaxants: Prescription medications like cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) or diazepam may be recommended for short-term pain related to muscle spasms but sedation and dizziness are common side effects
  • More powerful narcotics (opioids) (last resort only): Short-term use of opioids like oxycodone or hydrocodone should be considered under close supervision as a last resort only if other options are ineffective, but potential side effects and a high risk of addiction exist.

Pain Severity

The choice of pain relief depends on pain severity, for example:

  • Mild: acetaminophen, NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or diclofenac.
  • Moderate: depending on the type of pain, muscle relaxants, gabapentinoids, antidepressants, cortisone injections, or mild opioids, such as codeine or tramadol combined with acetaminophen or NSAIDs.
  • Severe: Strong opioids (last resort only), such as oxycodone or hydrocodone combined with acetaminophen or NSAIDs.

Drugs used to treat Pain

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

Filter
Drug name Rating Reviews Activity ? Rx/OTC Pregnancy CSA Alcohol
tramadol 5.9 677 reviews for tramadol to treat Pain
Rx C 4 X
Generic name:
tramadol systemic
Brand names:
ConZip, Qdolo
Drug class:
Opioids (narcotic analgesics)
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
gabapentin Off-label 6.0 389 reviews for gabapentin to treat Pain
Rx C N X
Generic name:
gabapentin systemic
Drug class:
gamma-aminobutyric acid analogs
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
Off-label:
Yes
ibuprofen 7.7 53 reviews for ibuprofen to treat Pain
Rx/OTC C N X
Generic name:
ibuprofen systemic
Brand names:
Advil, Motrin, Advil Liqui-Gels, Motrin IB, A-G Profen, Addaprin, Advil Children's, Advil Infant's Concentrated Drops, Advil Migraine, Caldolor, Children's Motrin, Genpril, IBU-200, Midol IB, Motrin Childrens, Motrin Infant Drops, Motrin Junior Strength, Nuprin, Proprinal
Drug class:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
acetaminophen 6.0 61 reviews for acetaminophen to treat Pain
Rx/OTC C N X
Generic name:
acetaminophen systemic
Brand names:
Tylenol, Paracetamol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Arthritis Pain Relief, Tylenol 8 Hour, 7T Gummy ES Chewable Tablets, Acephen, Actamin, Altenol, Aminofen, Anacin Aspirin Free, Apra, Aurophen, Cetafen, Children's Silapap, Children's Tylenol, Dolono, Febrol Solution, Feverall, Genapap, Genebs, Infant's Tylenol, Jr. Tylenol, Leader 8 Hour Pain Reliever, M-Pap, Mapap, Mapap Arthritis Pain, Nortemp Children's, Ofirmev, Pharbetol, Silapap Childrens, Tactinal, Tempra Quicklets, Tycolene, Tylophen, Vitapap
Drug class:
miscellaneous analgesics
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
oxycodone 8.3 468 reviews for oxycodone to treat Pain
Rx N 2 X
Generic name:
oxycodone systemic
Brand names:
OxyContin, Roxicodone, Dazidox, ETH-Oxydose, Oxaydo, Oxydose, Oxyfast, RoxyBond, Xtampza ER
Drug class:
Opioids (narcotic analgesics)
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
hydrocodone 5.5 193 reviews for hydrocodone to treat Pain
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
hydrocodone systemic
Brand name:
Hysingla ER
Drug class:
Opioids (narcotic analgesics), antitussives
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
Tylenol 5.9 18 reviews for Tylenol to treat Pain
Rx/OTC C N X
Generic name:
acetaminophen systemic
Drug class:
miscellaneous analgesics
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
acetaminophen / hydrocodone 6.2 756 reviews for acetaminophen / hydrocodone to treat Pain
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
acetaminophen / hydrocodone systemic
Brand names:
Xodol, Zyfrel
Drug class:
narcotic analgesic combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
Dilaudid 8.2 248 reviews for Dilaudid to treat Pain
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
hydromorphone systemic
Drug class:
Opioids (narcotic analgesics)
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
Paracetamol 4.6 9 reviews for Paracetamol to treat Pain
Rx/OTC C N X
Generic name:
acetaminophen systemic
Drug class:
miscellaneous analgesics
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
OxyContin 8.8 196 reviews for OxyContin to treat Pain
Rx N 2 X
Generic name:
oxycodone systemic
Drug class:
Opioids (narcotic analgesics)
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
Percocet 8.7 188 reviews for Percocet to treat Pain
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
acetaminophen / oxycodone systemic
Drug class:
narcotic analgesic combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
naproxen 6.2 105 reviews for naproxen to treat Pain
Rx/OTC C N X
Generic name:
naproxen systemic
Brand names:
Aleve, Naprosyn, Aflaxen, All Day Pain Relief, All Day Relief, Anaprox-DS, EC-Naprosyn, Flanax Pain Reliever, Midol Extended Relief, Naprelan
Drug class:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
Celebrex 6.8 103 reviews for Celebrex to treat Pain
Rx C N
Generic name:
celecoxib systemic
Drug class:
cox-2 inhibitors
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
diclofenac 7.0 192 reviews for diclofenac to treat Pain
Rx D N X
Generic name:
diclofenac systemic
Brand names:
Voltaren, Cataflam, Lofena, Zipsor, Zorvolex
Drug class:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
ketorolac 6.5 400 reviews for ketorolac to treat Pain
Rx C N X
Generic name:
ketorolac systemic
Brand name:
Sprix
Drug class:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
amitriptyline Off-label 7.7 248 reviews for amitriptyline to treat Pain
Rx C N X
Generic name:
amitriptyline systemic
Drug class:
tricyclic antidepressants
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
Off-label:
Yes
acetaminophen / oxycodone 8.2 442 reviews for acetaminophen / oxycodone to treat Pain
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
acetaminophen / oxycodone systemic
Brand names:
Percocet, Nalocet, Primlev, Prolate, Xolox
Drug class:
narcotic analgesic combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
Demerol 9.6 70 reviews for Demerol to treat Pain
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
meperidine systemic
Drug class:
Opioids (narcotic analgesics)
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
meloxicam 4.3 37 reviews for meloxicam to treat Pain
Rx C N X
Generic name:
meloxicam systemic
Drug class:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
Nucynta 6.2 273 reviews for Nucynta to treat Pain
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
tapentadol systemic
Drug class:
Opioids (narcotic analgesics)
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel 7.1 155 reviews for Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel to treat Pain
OTC C N
Generic name:
diclofenac topical
Drug class:
topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
aspirin 6.7 12 reviews for aspirin to treat Pain
Rx/OTC N N X
Generic name:
aspirin systemic
Brand names:
Arthritis Pain, Ascriptin, Aspergum, Aspiritab, Aspirtab, Bayer Aspirin, Bayer Aspirin Extra Strength Plus, Easprin, Ecotrin, Ecpirin, Entercote, Genacote, Halfprin, Norwich Aspirin, Vazalore
Drug class:
salicylates, platelet aggregation inhibitors
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
celecoxib 6.7 122 reviews for celecoxib to treat Pain
Rx C N
Generic name:
celecoxib systemic
Brand name:
Celebrex
Drug class:
cox-2 inhibitors
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
diclofenac 6.9 276 reviews for diclofenac to treat Pain
Rx/OTC C N
Generic name:
diclofenac topical
Brand names:
Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel, Flector Patch, Aspercreme Arthritis Pain Relief Gel, Licart, Xrylix
Drug class:
topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

Frequently asked questions

View more FAQ

Topics under Pain

Alternative treatments for Pain

The following products are considered to be alternative treatments or natural remedies for Pain. Their efficacy may not have been scientifically tested to the same degree as the drugs listed in the table above. However there may be historical, cultural or anecdotal evidence linking their use to the treatment of Pain.

Legend

Rating For ratings, users were asked how effective they found the medicine while considering positive/adverse effects and ease of use (1 = not effective, 10 = most effective).
Activity Activity is based on recent site visitor activity relative to other medications in the list.
Rx Prescription only.
OTC Over-the-counter.
Rx/OTC Prescription or Over-the-counter.
Off-label This medication may not be approved by the FDA for the treatment of this condition.
EUA An Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) allows the FDA to authorize unapproved medical products or unapproved uses of approved medical products to be used in a declared public health emergency when there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives.
Expanded Access Expanded Access is a potential pathway for a patient with a serious or immediately life-threatening disease or condition to gain access to an investigational medical product (drug, biologic, or medical device) for treatment outside of clinical trials when no comparable or satisfactory alternative therapy options are available.
Pregnancy Category
A Adequate and well-controlled studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus in the first trimester of pregnancy (and there is no evidence of risk in later trimesters).
B Animal reproduction studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women.
C Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use in pregnant women despite potential risks.
D There is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience or studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use in pregnant women despite potential risks.
X Studies in animals or humans have demonstrated fetal abnormalities and/or there is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience, and the risks involved in use in pregnant women clearly outweigh potential benefits.
N FDA has not classified the drug.
Controlled Substances Act (CSA) Schedule
M The drug has multiple schedules. The schedule may depend on the exact dosage form or strength of the medication.
U CSA Schedule is unknown.
N Is not subject to the Controlled Substances Act.
1 Has a high potential for abuse. Has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. There is a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.
2 Has a high potential for abuse. Has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions. Abuse may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
3 Has a potential for abuse less than those in schedules 1 and 2. Has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.
4 Has a low potential for abuse relative to those in schedule 3. It has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to those in schedule 3.
5 Has a low potential for abuse relative to those in schedule 4. Has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to those in schedule 4.
Alcohol
X Interacts with Alcohol.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.