Medically reviewed on Mar 10, 2013 by L. Anderson, PharmD.
Pain is a signal from our body that something is not right. It can be due to a physical injury, some kind of disease, or emotional upset. Most types of physical pain can be treated with pain relievers.
Analgesics such as acetaminophen or paracetamol are used to treat mild or moderate pain, and can also be used to reduce temperature in fevers. Narcotic analgesics such as codeine can be used alone or in combination with other analgesics for stronger pain, such as dental pain, menstrual pain or migraines. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (including aspirin) are used to reduce pain associated with inflammation, such as sports injuries, and can also be used to relieve fever.
Common Pain Conditions
There are many acute and chronic pain conditions, including:
- Back and Leg Pain
- Neck, Shoulder and Arm Pain
- "Whiplash" Injuries
- Motor Vehicle, Work-Related and Sports Injuries
- Failed Back Surgery and Other Post Surgical Pain Syndromes
- Pain Due to Arthritis
- Primary and Metastatic Cancer Pain
- Medication Side Effect Management
PAIN ASSOCIATED WITH OTHER CONDITIONS
- Vascular Pain
- Raynaud's Disease
- Psychogenic Pain
- Trigeminal Neuralgia
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Pelvic Pain
- Pediatric Pain
Common Pain Medications
Pain medications (analgesics) are not all the same. Each pain medication has its advantages and risks. Specific types of pain may respond better to one kind of medication than to another kind. Each person may have a slightly different response to a pain medication.
Over-the-counter medications are good for many types of pain. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is good for relieving pain and fever. It is less irritating to the stomach than other over-the-counter pain medications and is safer for children. It can, however, be toxic to the liver if you take more than the recommended dose.
Aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are examples of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These reduce inflammation caused by injury, arthritis, or fever. NSAIDs also relieve pain associated with menstruation. Take these medications in regular dosing intervals as directed by the manufacturer until the pain is gone.
However, DO NOT give aspirin to children. Reye's syndrome is associated with the use of aspirin to treat children with viral infections, such as chicken pox. This syndrome can cause brain and liver damage.
If you have high blood pressure, kidney disease, or a history of gastrointestinal bleeding, you should consult your health care provider before using any over-the-counter NSAID.
Prescription medications may be needed for other types of pain. There are specific uses and risks of prescription narcotic and non-narcotic medications.
There are alternate methods to help reduce pain that may be helpful instead of, or in addition to, pain medications. These include heat for sore or overworked muscles, ice applied to recent injuries (such as a sprained ankle), massage, resting the affected body part, and biofeedback or relaxation techniques.
Consult your doctor if pain lasts longer than a few days, if over-the-counter pain medications are not helping to reduce the pain, or if other symptoms arise. A consultation with a pain clinic or other specialist may be helpful for control of long-term pain.