Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Managing Chronic Pain with Medication

I-Engage April 30, 2021
Lesson Progress
0% Complete

In this topic, you’ll learn about medications for chronic pain. Medications can be helpful for some people, but may not be the best solution long term.

Treatments for chronic pain are diverse. There are many approaches; for example, over the counter and prescription drugs, mind/body techniques, acupuncture, and more. When it comes to treating chronic pain, no single technique is guaranteed to relieve pain completely. However, relief may be found by using a combination of treatment options.

Drug Therapy: Non-prescription and Prescription

You can talk to your healthcare provider about over the counter meds to manage your symptoms. They come in the form of pills, liquids, drops, creams, lotions, and sprays for aches and pains. These may provide some relief with less risk than opioids.

If they do not provide relief, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications. For example, muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants (for musculoskeletal pain), prescription NSAIDs, or stronger narcotic painkillers.

It’s important to understand the risks and side effects of taking stronger, more addictive drugs. Without careful regulation, you may develop a dependence. In extreme cases, these drugs may be misused or abused, leading to more harm than benefit.

woman feeling down about her chronic pain

Opioids (‘strong painkillers’) are most helpful for a short period – after an injury or surgery. Taken longer term, they may no longer help as much. Long term, they reduce pain for only about 10 percent of people. At this point, the side effects may not be worth the benefit.

If you’re taking (or have taken) opioids, chances are you’ve experienced some of the side effects listed here. You may want to discuss these with your healthcare provider. Some people develop an effective balance of medication to manage their pain. Once there, it might be hard to choose to change that medication regime.

Remember – never come off your medicines suddenly, or without consulting your healthcare team, as this may cause other problems. This process should be tightly monitored.

Opioid Side Effects

Feeling dizzy, sickness  (17-35%)Euphoria (feeling high)
Dry mouth (50%)Inability to pass urine (4%)
Sweating (35%)Immune system dysfunction
Confusion or sleepiness (14-29%)Increased levels of pain
Constipation (20-40%)Mood changes
Reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction, infertility (25%)Sleep problems (26%)
Risk of falls and fractureForgetting things/memory loss (24%)
Weight gain (29%)Emotional numbness

It’s important to note that your choice to take medication is 100% up to you! However, you may find as you adopt more self-management techniques successfully, you may be able to function without medication or with less. Further, make sure to discuss any desire to change your treatment plan with your healthcare team. They can advise you according to your specific health needs.

In the next lesson, you will learn about acceptance. The lesson will describe how to begin accepting your chronic pain.