What pain medication should I be taking?
With so many options of pain medication readily available on the shelves, it can be daunting to know which one may be most suitable or effective for the complaint that you may have.
When seeking medication for pain relief it is always best to speak to your GP or pharmacist first – this ensures you are not taking something you may be allergic to or not suitable for a number of reasons unknown to you! The last thing you want is to feel unwell on top of having musculoskeletal pain!
Things you need to consider are:
- What type of pain am I taking this medication for?
- Is it acute pain? (often sudden onset, short in duration and often from immediate injury such as ankle sprain or back muscle spasm)
- Is it chronic pain? (often long duration, often over 3 months old and often from a condition such as arthritis or disc bulge)
- Is it Inflammatory?
- Where is the pain located – Is it local and in one spot or widespread around the body?
- Do you have any allergies or reasons not to take certain medications?
- Are you currently on any other medications that it may interact with?
- Are you pregnant and need to avoid certain medications?
Here we describe the most common pain medication readily available in pharmacy’s and supermarkets.
Please be aware that this information in only a guide and you should always consult with your Doctor for the correct advice on what, if any, medication you should be taking.
Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatories AKA NSAIDs
Active ingredients: Ibuprofen.
Known as: Nurofen or Advil, Voltaren or Diclofenac
NSAIDs block the formation of inflammatory mediators and are thought to act locally at the site of pain.
NSAIDs should be avoided if you have asthma, gastric ulcers or are pregnant. These medications have the ability to stop blood clotting (working as a blood thinner), therefore it is not advised to take when you have bleeding or bruising, such as an ankle sprain or fracture. So… when should I NSAIDs?
- Muscle pain
- Back pain
- Period pain
- Tennis Elbow
- Arthritis, either Rheumatoid Arthritis or Osteoarthritis
- They can also be taken for toothaches or fevers. If you are experiencing a fever accompanied by lower back pain it is always best to seek advice from your GP.
Found in: Panadol, Herron, Panamax
Paracetamol is works along the brain’s pain pathways. It decrease the perception of pain by reducing the flow of pain signals from the brain.
So…When should I take this?
- Mild to moderate pain
- Joint sprains and muscle strains
- Cold and flu
- Persistent pain associated with osteoarthritis, muscle aches/pains
- Reducing fever (you may need to see your Doctor if you have a fever, especially if it is associated with back pain or headache).
Active Ingredient: Codeine – also known as Panadeine,
This is a Narcotic, or Opiate, which is derived from morphine.
It is used to treat mild to moderately severe pain.
Do not use if you are allergic to it, have an uncontrolled breathing disorder or asthma. It does contain addictive properties so this drug is not recommended for long term use.
Codeine is usually used in combination with other medications. You can often find it with cold and flu tablets and Panadeine (paracetamol & codeine).
You should speak to your pharmacist before taking codeine.
As well as common pharmaceutical medications mentioned above, there are also other natural products which can be used to help with pain management. These can include Magnesium, ginger and fish oil.
Magnesium plays an important role in muscle relaxtion and contraction through its role in ion transport systems. It is most commonly taken in the form of tablets or powder. It can be used for the treatment of:
- Muscle cramps
- Period pain
This medicinal plant and spice works as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-emetic (effective against nausea and vomiting) and works as a pain killer. It can reduce both pain and inflammation. This is done by stopping production of inflammatory causing cells. It can be used for:
- Period pain
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Fish oils which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which work a multiple of ways to decrease inflammation. If used regularly it can reduce the need for medications including NSAIDs. It is effective against:
Tumeric with active ingredient of curcumin:
Works as an anti-inflammatory for acute and chronic pain conditions.
Although these supplements are derived from natural products, it should be known that they still can cause side effects and can effect other medications. It is always best to consult your GP before taking new medications or supplements.
Please ask us or your GP for further information on what pain management can help you and your pain or condition.
Written by Dr Catriona Bauld (osteopath)Member Osteopathy Australia