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5 Different Medications for Managing Chronic Pain

5 Different Medications for Managing Chronic Pain

When pain dominates your life, it becomes an unwelcome companion that drains your energy, consumes your thoughts, and leaves you feeling absolutely helpless. The only way to get your life back is to find an effective treatment that lessens the discomfort so you can take back control.

At Interventional Pain Associates in Austin, Texas, our pain specialist, Dr. Sarosh Saleemi, has a deep understanding of the overarching effects chronic pain has on an individual’s life. Beyond the physical discomfort, chronic pain makes it harder to work, socialize, and take care of basic needs like shopping for food.

Chronic pain is complex, and no single medication works for everyone. Here, we want to talk to you about the different pain medications, how they work, and how they might help you.

1. Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is an over-the-counter (OTC) analgesic (pain reliever). It works by blocking the production of a hormone-like substance (prostaglandin) that influences pain perception. We use acetaminophen to treat mild to moderate pain like tension headachesknee pain from osteoarthritis.

You should never take more than the amount recommended of your acetaminophen. Taking too much or taking acetaminophen with alcohol may damage your liver.

2. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are available OTC and by prescription. These pain medications treat mild to moderate pain caused by swelling and inflammation, like an injury or arthritis. NSAIDs work by preventing the release of the enzymes responsible for the pain and inflammation. 

NSAIDs are relatively safe, but you should never take more than the recommended dose. Taking high doses of NSAIDs may cause gastrointestinal (GI) bleeds. You should also always take your NSAID with food to reduce the risk of unwanted side effects.

3. Antidepressants

Certain antidepressants — tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — are also used to alleviate the discomfort caused by chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, neuropathy, and arthritis.

Researchers are still investigating how these medications benefit chronic pain, but theorize they work by increasing neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that reduce pain signals. 

4. Anti-seizure medication

Anti-seizure medications are also used to combat chronic pain. We might prescribe these drugs to help our patients with fibromyalgia, back painneck pain, and neuropathic pain. 

The mechanism behind the pain-relieving capabilities of these medications is still under investigation, but researchers theorize that they may work by reducing the frequency of the pain signal from the nerve to the brain. 

5. Muscle relaxants

Muscle relaxants are prescription medications that reduce muscle-related pain. We may recommend muscle relaxants to treat muscle spasms in our patients with chronic back or neck pain. 

Muscle relaxants are a central nervous system sedative, reducing nerve signaling to the brain to stop the painful muscle movements. Unfortunately, drowsiness is a side effect of these medications. 

We may use a combination of medications to help you gain control over your pain. If our interventions fail, we may consider alternative treatments like interventional pain management (injections, radiofrequency denervation) or ketamine therapy

Chronic pain is overwhelming, but you can have a life beyond pain. Let us help you get on a path to pain-free living. Call our office or click the “book online” button to make an appointment with our pain specialist today. 

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