Chronic Pain Medications


The traditional first line of defense against chronic pain has been medications, including but not limited to the following:


Anti-Inflammatory Drugs both reduce pain directly and lessen the swelling and irritation in the affected tissues, which also helps decrease pain. Anti-inflammatories include aspirin, perhaps one of the oldest anti-inflammatory drugs; the so-called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen (Aleve); and steroids such a cortisol and prednisone, which are usually reserved for tougher inflammatory conditions such as severe arthritis. Both aspirin and NSAIDs have to be used with some care because they have a tendency to cause stomach irritations. A newer class of anti-inflammatories known as COX-2 inhibitors (Celebrex) do not irritate the stomach as often or severely as the NSAIDs, but tends to be much more costly to the consumer.


Non-Aspirin Pain Relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) do not relieve inflammation, but they do have less of an irritating effect on the stomach, making them useful against pain by themselves or in combination with other medications.


Opioids include both morphine and its derivatives, and synthetic versions of these drugs. They are usually used to treat acute pain (that is, pain immediately related to an injury), or very tough intractable pain such as occurs with cancer. Sometimes, though, opioids are also used for chronic pain that does not respond to other medications.


Anti-Depressants were, as the name indicates, originally used only to treat depression. Research has shown, though, that they can be very useful in relieving certain kinds of pain. They also can help a person to sleep better at night, which can be a major issue for a chronic pain sufferer.


Anti-Seizure Medications, again as the name indicates, were originally developed to help with conditions such as epilepsy. They can be very useful in acting on damaged nerves that transmit so-called "shooting pain" sensations.


Other Medications can be prescribed for more specific pain conditions, as well as to relieve secondary symptoms of chronic pain such as anxiety and depression, or to counteract the side effects of other pain medications such as the constipating effect of opioids.