- Analgesics are available over-the-counter/OTC and with a prescription
- Prescription analgesics usually include the more powerful form of over-the-counter medications
- Various analgesics are available in topical form
- Analgesics can be specialized with some to relieve pain, with others reducing inflammation/pain
Over-the-counterAcetaminophen, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and topical analgesics are the most commonly used medications for various pain symptoms. Over-the-counter analgesics are most effective when taken at the first sign/presentation of acute pain. Whiplash, along with muscle sprains and strains are common injuries known to cause short term pain that can be mild to severe. Follow the medication’s instructions on dosage recommendations and precautions. If the medication does not work or helps manage the pain, and/or pain symptoms worsen, contact your healthcare provider. This could be an indicator that a more powerful prescription analgesic is needed to help manage the pain, along with added therapy like physical therapy, and chiropractic to help avoid dependence on the prescription meds.
AcetaminophenTylenol is one form of medication taken for different types of pain and is one of the most popular over-the-counter analgesics. Acetaminophen’s purpose is exclusively to relieve pain. It does not reduce inflammation.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – NSAIDsNon-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs work to reduce inflammation and pain. Types of over-the-counter These include:
Topical analgesicsTopical analgesics like capsaicin cream and salicylates are an alternative to analgesics taken by mouth. These creams, balms, gels, and sprays are applied to the painful area. It is a very common application and is widely used for joint, muscle, and back pain. Salicylates are plant-based chemicals that operate to decrease the body’s production of prostaglandins. These are lipids that let the body know that there is a problem causing inflammation and pain.
PrescriptionA doctor could prescribe an analgesic as part of a treatment plan to help manage short-term and chronic pain. It is extremely important to precisely follow the doctor’s instructions on how much and when to take the medication. Remember that any of these medications have the potential for side effects, which includes the risk of negative interactions when taken with other meds. Be sure to talk with a doctor about potential risks, and keep them informed about all medications like blood pressure and diabetes meds and natural herbs/vitamins/supplements taken for other medical conditions.
COX-2 InhibitorsCyclo-oxygenase-2 or COX-2 inhibitors are a prescription NSAID medication type that is formulated to target specific enzymes that trigger inflammation. Inflammation is not just a symptom but can also be a cause of pain related to many different spinal disorders. COX-2 inhibitors have a lower risk of causing/contributing to gastrointestinal problems. There are other potential side effects and risks associated with COX-2 inhibitors. Potential side effects include an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, like a heart attack or blood clots. COX-2 inhibitors reduce the risk of stomach problems than classic NSAIDs but if gastrointestinal conditions exist to talk with a doctor before taking these medications.
OpioidsThese are highly potent analgesics and are no longer the first type of pain-relieving medication that a doctor prescribes. They are now to be the last resort for reducing moderate to severe pain symptoms. These medications work by decreasing the perception and reaction to the pain. Opioids are prescribed for short-term use following surgical procedures and trauma. However, there are different situations where use is appropriate. When opioids are recommended, the doctor will begin with the lowest strength/dosage to manage the pain. Types of opioids include:
- Slowed breathing