Pain Medication Management

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Properly managing pain medication is an important part of any successful recovery process

What is pain medication management?

More than 100 million adults in America suffer from pain that disrupts their everyday life. There are proper and improper ways to manage this pain — no conversation about pain medicine is complete without touching on the risk of opioid addiction.

However, it is also important to get the medication that your situation requires. Managing pain medication correctly will limit the potential risks while still allowing for relief from the pain that is limiting the quality of your life.

Common types of pain medication

There are two main categories of pain medication: over-the-counter and prescription.

Over-the-counter medications include:

  • NSAIDs – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen work by relieving pain through reducing levels of prostaglandins as well as targeting swelling
  • Acetaminophen – most commonly found in Tylenol, this option targets pain messages received by the brain but does not curtail inflammation
  • Topical pain relievers – these include sprays, lotions and creams such as Icy Hot  or Ben-Gay

Prescription medications include:

  • Antidepressants – often used to treat emotional disorders, these medications can also reduce pain by adjusting neurotransmitter levels
  • Anticonvulsants – these drugs are conventionally used to treat seizures but they also minimize the effectiveness of pain-causing nerves
  • Corticosteroids – this type of medication is often administered through an injection that targets swelling in a specific joint
  • Opioids – drugs such as morphine and oxycodone, commonly referred to as narcotics, are very powerful and attach to receptors in the brain in order to block pain and produce a calming effect
  • Topical pain relievers – lidocaine patches are a common local anesthetic that stops nerves from sending pain signals to the brain

While each of these medicines comes with possible side effects, the prescription options are  undoubtedly more severe. These common side effects can include blurred vision, nausea, weakened immune system, brittle bones and difficulty breathing. A medical professional will provide guidance as to which medicine is the safest option for any particular condition.

Signs of addiction

It is important to recognize signs that indicate when you or a loved one becomes addicted to pain medication. This is different from dependence, which causes withdrawal symptoms when the medicine is no longer present in the body. This is also not the same thing as tolerance, which refers to the same dosage becoming less effective over time.

Addiction is a psychological condition and presents itself as a risk in individuals who take opioids for an extended period of time. This risk is dramatically reduced when pain medication is taken as directed, but can increase if addictive behaviors are present in your past or that of a family member.

How to prevent addiction

It is crucial to use opioids as they are intended, under proper medical supervision and for as short a period as possible. Your doctor should be made aware of any personal or family history of addiction or if you become worried about needing higher doses to achieve the same amount of relief.

There are also options to reduce your pain and therefore use of pain medication such as physical therapy or alternative medicine.


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