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Chronic Pain: OTC or Prescription Medicine?

When to Call the Doctor

If your pain medications are not working or your pain temporarily increases, it's important to talk to your doctor about finding the pain medication that is effective in managing your pain. So when should you call your doctor about your pain?

"Typically, temporary increases in pain are not a reason to call the doctor," says Minzter. "These episodes can be expected with a chronic pain problem. But always call your doctor if the change in the way you feel is alarming or when there are signs of infection." Fever, inflammation, or swelling is a red flag.

Experts maintain that people react to pain differently. That is, the way you experience pain is likely to differ from how another person experiences it. You and your doctor should work together for develop a plan for how you should respond to an increase in pain and when you need to call your doctor.


Managing Your Pain: Be Proactive

When it comes to managing chronic pain, studies suggest that people tend to fall into one of three groups:

  • The first group of people is made up of people who never report their pain or seek medical help for it.
  • The second group seeks a “magic pill” that will eliminate pain and not cause any side effects. This goal is not realistic.
  • The third type of group is more proactive. This type of patient actively participates in managing his or her pain, is well-informed about pain medications and their side effects, and works closely with a doctor to find the most effective drugs that have the fewest side effects.

Be a proactive patient and aim to be part of the third group of people. Tracking the severity of your pain and sharing this information with your doctor can help you manage your pain more effectively. Your doctor can evaluate whether or not your pain management plan is working based on the information you provide.


Reviewed on March 11, 2014

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