HealthSheets™


Medicine for Pain

Medicines can help to block pain, decrease inflammation, and treat related problems. More than one medicine may be used to treat your pain. Medicines may be changed as you feel better, or if they cause side effects.

Medicines

What they do

Possible side effects

Non-opioid NSAIDs, aspirin, acetaminophen

Reduce pain chemicals at the site of pain. NSAIDs can reduce joint and soft tissue inflammation.

Nausea, stomach pain, ulcers, indigestion, bleeding, kidney, and liver problems. Certain NSAIDs may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease in some people. Talk with your healthcare provider.

Opioids (morphine and similar medicines often called narcotics)

Reduce feelings or perception of pain. Used for moderate to severe pain.

Nausea, vomiting, itching, drowsiness, constipation, slowed breathing

Other medicines (corticosteroids, antinausea, antidepressant, and antiseizure medicines)

Reduce swelling, burning or tingling pain, or certain side effects of pain medicines, such as nausea or vomiting

Your healthcare provider will explain the possible side effects of these medicines.

Anesthetics (local, injected) include lidocaine, benzocaine, and medicines used by anesthesiologists

Stop pain signals from reaching the brain by blocking feeling in the treated area

Nausea, low blood pressure, fever, slowed breathing, fainting, seizures, heart attack

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away (or have a family member call) if you have:

  • Unrelieved pain

  • Side effects, including constipation or uncontrolled nausea, that interfere with daily activities

If you have extreme sleepiness or breathing problems, call 911.

Other precautions

  • Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist how to get rid of your pain medicines safely when you stop using them.

  • Never share your pain medicines with anyone.

  • Store your medicines in a safe place so they can’t be stolen. If you think your medicine has been stolen or lost, tell your healthcare provider right away.

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