Continual pain: Medicine choices

Continual pain can restrict your good quality of everyday living and lead to more, major wellness challenges. Acquiring powerful treatment is important — as is balancing pain aid with your security.

By Mayo Clinic Personnel

Continual pain is a major wellness condition. Like any extended-expression wellness problem, the condition generally potential customers to complications beyond your actual physical signs or symptoms, this sort of as new or worsened melancholy, stress, and problem sleeping. Continual pain can make it a lot more hard to retain up at work, control tasks at house and go to social gatherings, primary to challenges in your relationships and fiscal instability. Some analysis suggests that the a lot more extreme your pain, the a lot more major these challenges.

The major implications of long-term pain make finding powerful treatment a crucial intention. Unfortunately, this system is complicated and uniquely own. What will work for a single person’s long-term reduced back again pain might not supply any aid for your osteoarthritis, for a number of motives. Your prognosis, biology and own background all play a function, and finding pain therapies that provide you suitable aid can be a lengthy effort and hard work.

Performing in partnership with your medical doctor, nevertheless, you can detect therapies that let you to are living an pleasurable, satisfying everyday living. The method you select need to incorporate a lot more than just treatment, but painkillers are possible to play a function. Find out about the hazards and advantages of frequent pain medications so that you can make safe and sound possibilities as you request your option.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are most powerful for moderate to average pain that’s accompanied by swelling and irritation. These medication are normally applied for arthritis and pain resulting from muscle sprains, strains, back again and neck accidents, or menstrual cramps.

  • Generic (brand) names. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, other folks) naproxen sodium (Aleve) other folks
  • How they work. NSAIDs work by inhibiting certain enzymes in your body, identified as cyclooxygenase, that are produced during tissue injury. By blocking the diverse styles of cyclooxygenase (COX) — including COX-1 and COX-two — NSAIDs can support lower pain and irritation that consequence from an harm.
  • Rewards and hazards. When taken as directed, NSAIDs are usually safe and sound. But if you consider a lot more than the advisable dosage — and often even just the advisable dosage — NSAIDs might cause nausea, stomach pain, stomach bleeding or ulcers. Huge doses of NSAIDs can also lead to kidney challenges, fluid retention and superior blood tension. Danger of these problems improves with age and in the presence of other wellness challenges, including diabetes, a background of stomach ulcers or reflux, and kidney ailment.
  • Bottom line. If you regularly consider NSAIDs, chat to your medical doctor so that he or she can keep an eye on you for achievable facet results. Bear in intellect that NSAIDs also have a ceiling effect — a restrict as to how significantly pain they can handle. This implies that beyond a certain dosage, they never offer more benefit. Exceeding the advisable dose might not reduce your pain and might improve your risk of major facet results.


Acetaminophen is commonly advisable as a first line treatment for moderate to average pain, this sort of as from a pores and skin harm, headache or musculoskeletal condition. Acetaminophen is generally prescribed to support control osteoarthritis and back again pain. It might also be mixed with opioids to lower the amount of money of opioid wanted.

  • Generic (brand) names. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, other folks)
  • How it will work. Physicians never know accurately how acetaminophen will work. Some experts believe that there might be a 3rd sort of cyclooxygenase, COX-3, that acetaminophen blocks. Acetaminophen does not have an affect on the other two cyclooxygenase enzymes, and it does not goal irritation — only pain. It might be fewer powerful than NSAIDs.
  • Rewards and hazards. Acetaminophen is usually considered safer than other nonopioid pain relievers since it does not cause facet results this sort of as stomach pain and bleeding. On the other hand, having a lot more than the advisable dose — or having acetaminophen with alcoholic beverages — improves your risk of kidney injury and liver failure more than time.
  • Bottom line. Acetaminophen is usually a safe and sound solution to try first for quite a few styles of pain, including long-term pain. Talk to your medical doctor for steerage about other medications to steer clear of although having acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is not as powerful as NSAIDs for the treatment of knee and hip pain relevant to osteoarthritis.

COX-two inhibitors

These medications have been designed with the aim of reducing frequent facet results involved with common NSAIDs. COX-two inhibitors are normally applied for arthritis and pain resulting from muscle sprains, strains, back again and neck accidents, or menstrual cramps. They are as powerful as NSAIDs and might be the proper choice if you need extended-expression pain handle with no elevated risk of stomach injury.

  • Generic (brand) names. Celecoxib (Celebrex, Consensi)
  • How they work. COX-two inhibitors, another sort of NSAID, work a bit differently from common NSAIDs. A COX-two inhibitor blocks only the COX-two enzyme — the a single that’s a lot more possible to cause pain and irritation.
  • Rewards and hazards. COX-1 enzymes support defend the lining of your stomach. NSAIDs, which block COX-1, can cause facet results this sort of as stomach pain and bleeding. COX-two inhibitors, on the other hand, support retain the stomach safeguarded by performing only on COX-two enzymes, allowing for COX-1 to functionality normally.

    Whilst the risk of stomach bleeding is usually lessen if you consider a COX-two inhibitor instead of an NSAID, bleeding can continue to happen, primarily at higher doses. These medications might cause facet results, this sort of as complications and dizziness, and can lead to kidney challenges, fluid retention and superior blood tension.

  • Bottom line. More mature adults might be at higher risk of frequent COX-two facet results in contrast with young adults. If these medications support you control long-term pain, aim to consider the most affordable powerful dose for the shortest time achievable, and observe up closely with your medical doctor.

Antidepressants and anti-seizure medications

Some medications normally prescribed to control melancholy and prevent epileptic seizures have also been identified to support reduce long-term pain, including back again pain, fibromyalgia and diabetes-relevant nerve pain (diabetic neuropathy). For the reason that long-term pain generally worsens melancholy, antidepressants might doubly benefit pain and mood signs or symptoms.

  • Generic (brand) names. Tricyclic antidepressants applied in the treatment of long-term pain incorporate amitriptyline and nortriptyline (Pamelor).

    Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) that might be prescribed to reduce long-term pain incorporate duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor XR, Pristiq) and milnacipran (Fetzima, Savella).

    Anti-seizure medications that are broadly applied for the treatment of long-term nerve pain, including postherpetic neuralgia and diabetic neuropathy, incorporate gabapentin (Gralise, Neurontin, Horizant) and pregabalin (Lyrica).

  • How they work. These medication might consider a number of months in advance of you detect the results. Anti-seizure medications silent pain alerts from your nerve cells, and might be practical principally for stabbing or capturing pain resulting from nerve injury.
  • Rewards and hazards. Facet results of these medications are usually moderate, but might incorporate nausea, dizziness or drowsiness. As a team, antidepressants and anti-seizure medications might, not often, worsen melancholy or cause suicidal ideas. If you detect variations in your imagining styles or mood although having these medications, chat with your medical doctor proper absent.
  • Bottom line. To lower the risk of facet results, your medical doctor might commence you out on a modest amount of money of these medications and gradually improve the dose. Tricyclic antidepressants can make you drowsy, so your medical doctor possible will endorse that you consider these medications in advance of bedtime.


Opioid medications are synthetic cousins of opium and the medication derived from opium, this sort of as heroin and morphine. These medication are generally prescribed for acute pain that stems from traumatic harm, this sort of as surgical procedures or a broken bone. Opioids at present cause the most prescription drug-relevant overdose deaths in the United States — and that price is continue to rising. For the reason that the hazards are so excellent, opioids are applied at the most affordable dose achievable, commonly for just a handful of days.

  • Generic (brand) names. Hydrocodone (Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER) hydrocodone-acetaminophen (Norco, Anexsia 5/325, other folks) fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic-100, other folks), oxycodone (OxyContin, Roxicodone, other folks) oxycodone-acetaminophen (Percocet, Roxicet, other folks) other folks
  • How they work. Opioids, just like genuine opium, mimic the pure pain-relieving chemical compounds — identified as endorphins — produced by your brain. These medication “switch down the quantity” on the pain alerts your anxious program sends via your body. They also muffle other nerve mobile functions, this sort of as your respiration, heart price and degree of alertness.
  • Rewards and hazards. Study shows that more than time, your body adapts to these medications, and they provide fewer and fewer pain aid. This phenomenon, acknowledged as tolerance, implies that you need a lot more of the exact treatment to obtain the exact degree of pain aid. Very long-expression use of opioids might lead to dependence on these medications and, ultimately, dependancy.

    The lengthier you use opioids, the bigger your risk of becoming addicted. On the other hand, even utilizing opioids to control pain for a lot more than a handful of days improves your risk. Scientists at Mayo Clinic have identified that the odds you may continue to be on opioids a yr immediately after starting off a quick class improve immediately after only 5 days on opioids.

  • Bottom line. Opioids are a previous resort for long-term pain administration. They might be the proper choice for extended-expression pain relevant to cancer and its therapies or, in rare cases, noncancer pain that hasn’t responded to any other medications. For the reason that the hazards are so major, you may need cautious and regular observe-ups with your medical doctor if you use opioids extended expression.

When there isn’t really a cure for long-term pain, quite a few powerful pain medications are out there to support you functionality properly and appreciate your days. As you try diverse medication, on your own or in mixture, work with your medical doctor to goal the simplest extended-expression option achievable. Maintain your treatment hazards to a least to boost your odds of quite a few excellent days, for quite a few decades to occur.

Suffering medications at a look

Medicine sort How they work Initial line solution for Rewards Hazards
NSAIDs Block COX-1 and COX-two enzymes associated in pain and irritation
  • Mild to average pain accompanied by swelling and irritation
  • Arthritis pain and pain resulting from muscle sprains and strains, back again and neck accidents, overuse accidents, and menstrual cramps
When taken as directed, usually safe and sound for quick- and extended-expression use
  • May possibly cause nausea, stomach pain, stomach bleeding or ulcers
  • When taken in superior doses, can lead to kidney challenges, fluid retention and superior blood tension
  • Enhanced risk of facet results for more mature adults
Acetaminophen Unidentified, but maybe blocks a COX-3 enzyme Mild to average pain Acetaminophen Unidentified, but maybe blocks a COX-3 enzyme
COX-two inhibitors Block COX-two enzymes Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, menstrual cramps and harm-relevant pain As powerful as NSAIDs with no harmful stomach lining at typical doses
  • Respiratory an infection, headache and dizziness
  • When taken in superior doses, can lead to stomach bleeding, kidney
    challenges, fluid retention and superior blood tension
  • Enhanced risk of facet results for more mature adults
Antidepressants Interfere with certain chemical procedures that cause you to sense pain
  • Neuropathic pain, long-term day-to-day complications, fibromyalgia
  • May possibly be considered for long-term reduced back again pain
  • Can be in doses significantly lessen than what is at present applied to deal with melancholy
  • Facet results usually moderate
  • Drowsiness achievable with tricyclic antidepressants
  • Can consider a number of months to produce sought after results
  • May possibly worsen melancholy and cause suicidal ideas in a modest number of people today
Anti-seizure medications Peaceful pain alerts from weakened nerves Postherpetic neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia Facet results usually moderate
  • May possibly cause dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, reduced coordination and pounds variations
  • May possibly worsen melancholy and cause suicidal ideas in a modest number of people today
Opioids Activate sense-excellent neurotransmitters, identified as endorphins, that suppress pain and strengthen a feeling of nicely-staying
  • Acute pain, this sort of as pain that follows surgical procedures or a bone fracture
  • Generally prescribed for greatest of 3 days
Impressive aid during quick intervals of extreme pain
  • Tolerance, dependence, misuse, dependancy and overdose, which might start to build within just a single 7 days of use
  • Dependable for the vast majority of accidental overdose deaths in the U.S.

Vivien Williams: 50 million. Which is how quite a few people today in the U.S. undergo from long-term pain. Several switch to opioid painkillers for aid.

Mike Hooten, M.D. (Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic): The proof is not all that distinct about the efficacy of individuals medication extended-expression for long-term pain.

Vivien Williams: Mayo Clinic pain administration specialist Dr. Mike Hooten states what is distinct about these painkillers is the risk involved with having them.

Mike Hooten, M.D.: The challenges of dependancy, but a relevant problem of accidental overdose deaths.

Vivien Williams: Morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone are normally prescribed opioids. Dr. Hooten states they are extremely powerful when applied quick-expression for pain, for illustration, immediately after a surgical procedures. For extended-expression use …

Mike Hooten, M.D.: There are a modest team of studies that might show some benefit in in certain highly pick groups of sufferers.

Vivien Williams: But, for quite a few cases of long-term pain, Dr. Hooten states non-opioid pain relievers mixed with other therapies, this sort of as strain administration can support people today control pain and retain a superior good quality of everyday living. For the Mayo Clinic Information Network, I am Vivien Williams.

Vivien Williams: This can be a frequent state of affairs: raiding the drugs cabinet for leftover painkillers immediately after a sprained ankle or toothache. You can find almost nothing erroneous with popping an occasional opioid, proper?

Mike Hooten, M.D. (Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic): They are hazardous. They could have adverse results that the individual does not even know about.

Vivien Williams: Together with dependancy or accidental overdose. So, when is it ideal to consider opioids?

Mike Hooten, M.D.: Just after an operation, opioids are highly powerful.

Vivien Williams: Dr. Mike Hooten is a pain administration specialist at Mayo Clinic.

Mike Hooten, M.D: Just after trauma, for illustration, extreme trauma, opioids would be ideal.

Vivien Williams: Dr. Hooten states opioids are also effective during techniques, this sort of as colonoscopies. Troubles occur when people today consider them with no a prescription or for much too extended.

Mike Hooten, M.D.: If they are predisposed to build dependancy, either neurobiologically or from a behavioral standpoint, then all of a sudden we are selecting the persons who might go on to have extended-expression challenges.

Vivien Williams: If you have pain, chat to your wellness care company. For the Mayo Clinic Information Network, I am Vivien Williams.