Medicines can often help control
chronic pain. Many different drugs, both prescription
and nonprescription, are used to treat chronic pain. All these medicines can
cause side effects and should be taken exactly as they are prescribed. In some
cases, it may take several weeks before medicines work to reduce pain. To avoid
dangerous drug interactions, tell your doctor all the medicines you are taking
(including herbal and other complementary medicines).
You will likely be given medicines that cause the fewest
side effects first (such as
acetaminophen) to treat chronic pain. The dose will be
increased or the medicines will be changed as needed. Medicines used to treat chronic pain
include the following:
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Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin,
ibuprofen (Advil, for example), ketoprofen, and naproxen (Aleve, for example).
Always take NSAIDs exactly as prescribed or according to the label. Do not take
a nonprescription NSAID for longer than 10 days without talking to your
Pain relievers that are applied directly to
the skin (topical analgesics), such as EMLA cream or a lidocaine patch
Capsaicin, a naturally occurring
substance that is found in chili peppers and is used to make certain topical
Cooling spray. This involves using a cooling
spray (such as Biofreeze) directly on the skin. This may be repeated several
Creams or gels containing medicines or combinations of
medicines. The cream or gel is rubbed
directly on the painful area. Some of these creams or gels can be made at the pharmacy according to your doctor's directions.
Other therapies that may be used to treat chronic pain
Nerve block injections. An anesthetic
is injected into the affected nerve to relieve pain. The anesthetic may relieve
pain for several days, but the pain often returns. Although nerve blocks do not
normally cure chronic pain, they may allow you to begin physical therapy and
range of motion.
injections (injecting steroids around the spine). Although these injections
have been used for many years and may provide relief for
low back or neck pain caused by disc disease or
pinched nerves, they may not work for everyone.
injections. These may relieve pain by injecting a local anesthetic into trigger
points (or specific tender areas) linked to chronic fascial pain or
fibromyalgia. These injections do not relieve chronic pain