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Make Pain Meds Work

You likely take pain meds. Have you gotten complacent about how you use them? Brush up on the habits you need to help pain meds work. And make it a goal to pay attention to small acts that might be sabotaging your pain management.  

Remember Last Dose?

When you take several meds, it can be tough to remember what meds you have, what they are for, and when you last took a dose, especially when you're under the stress of a pain flare.  

Get organized. Keep an up-to-date list of all your meds -- list them all in the Meds section of your Journal. When you start a new med, add a Note about what it's for, how much to take, and when to take it. Also add any special instructions like "take with food."

Drug Interactions

When was the last time you took all of your meds to each doctor visit? Don't wait for them to ask. Just do it.  

Bring them all in -- OTC pills and rubs as well as vitamins and supplements. Even herbal supplements sometimes have serious side effects or drug interactions. For example, St. John's wort interacts with several prescription meds.

Also, are you always honest about any illicit drug use and how much alcohol you drink? Your willingness to be frank can often improve your medical care.

Drug Directions

Have you ever left the doctor's office not understanding your new med? Take the time and energy to get your questions answered before you leave. For instance, should your medicine be taken regularly or only when needed? Call your doctor's nurse or a pharmacist if you have questions later on.  Your understanding helps you take the med properly, which could make a difference in how well it controls your pain.

And be a bit of a geek. Read those fold-out instructions with prescription meds. Then do your best to take each med as directed.

Can't Afford It?

There's no doubt treating a chronic condition can get pricey. If you can't afford your meds, ask your doctor or pharmacist about generics or less expensive brands. It's not safe to skip doses to save money. And you may be undermining your care -- and risking extra pain -- if you say nothing.

Some government agencies and drugmakers offer assistance programs to help pay for medications. Some pharmacies offer discount clubs or other programs to help with costs as well.  Compare prices and check online.

New Side Effects

Everyone responds differently to medications. Some people are more sensitive to certain side effects than others, for example. Plus, side effects may go away after your body adjusts to the medicine and some medications may lose effectiveness over time.

Notice a difference? Don't delay letting your doctor know. Tell your doctor right away about new side effects or if a drug no longer relieves your symptoms. Give your doctor a chance to change your dosage or try a new med.

Dosing Tips

Never change the dosage of your medication -- or stop taking it -- without talking to your doctor. Often it's important to maintain regular dosing for it to work properly. Your doctor recommends a certain dosage in order to balance the effectiveness of the drug with potential side effects. Messing with the dose may upset that balance and may cause symptoms to return or dangerous side effects.

Refill Errors

To prevent medication errors, be sure to check your prescriptions when you pick them up. Does the pill look different than what you expected or had last time? It is a different shape, color, or size? If something seems off, ask the pharmacist to double-check it.

Tell Your Doctor

Most medications have side effects. For example, many opioid drugs can cause constipation. But don't assume you have to put up with bothersome side effects -- tell your doctor. Often there's a way to manage drug side effects. You doctor may make minor changes to the dose or how you take the drug, prescribe an additional drug to help manage symptoms, or change the drug altogether.

Balanced Treatment

Often, pain meds won't take all pain away. Your self-care -- resting, relaxing, setting limits -- helps round out treatment. A balanced plan often decreases pain enough to work and enjoy life.

If your treatment isn't in balance, tell your doctor.  Here's how to tell: under-medicating may leave you with debilitating pain. And depending on what medications you take, over-medicating may make you groggy and unmotivated.  Don't procrastinate on getting the best care you can for yourself.

WebMD Medical Reference

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