This is for general educational purposes, and everyone should work with their physician to find what is best for their own health.
Sometimes people need pain medication in order to tolerate activity.
It is important to be able to tolerate activity: activity improves pain and overall health! Over the years, unfortunately, I have had to refer many people to the Emergency Department or back to the physician’s office for pain medication issues! It is important for patients to be educated and aware of what they are taking and why, how much, how often, and to what end goal.
It is essential to understand the parameters around the pain medication you are taking.
Any medication you might take-over the counter or prescribed-can have side effects, or interact with other medications. It is important to know what can or shouldn’t be taken together. Stopping a medication correctly should be instructed as well- as some medications can be ended at once, but many should be weaned off slowly.
Clinicians-I hope this is a handy review that you can use to help educate patients.
Family caregivers and Savvy Seniors-I hope this is a helpful explanation of some of the many options that you can discuss with your health care professional!
General pain medication review:
(Reviewed by Joy Boatwright, BSN)
Steroids (2010, M Vyvey, MD) are prescription medications that are anti inflammatory. They are typically used for short term pain relief, at the neuropathic level, and by reducing inflammation and pain caused by swelling. A few common issues may be blood sugar changes, muscle weakness, and insomnia. There are usually specific instructions for tapering off of these medications.
NSAIDS (Cleveland Clinic, 2020) are non steroid anti inflammatories. Like steroids, they work by both reducing swelling and blocking the chemicals which cause swelling and pain. However they don’t have the same negative effects of steroids (above). They can be prescription or over the counter. They do have side effects, and caution should be taken especially with cardiac issues, kidney issues, and gastrointestinal issues. If a person takes these regularly over a long period of time they may need to wean off of them.
Opioids (Web MD) work by blocking your pain receptors. There are many different options, and I have seen different ones work better for different patients. They may cause nausea, drowsiness, and constipation. *Most patients take medication for constipation when they take opioids (You can become very ill if you do not have a bowel movement for several days). Caution should be taken to follow instructions correctly, and not mix with other medications that slow down your nervous system: alcohol, marijuana, etc. These medications are prescription only, (from the physician office- not given online) and usually prescribed in small amounts. I always encourage post operative patients to check their supply on Thursdays to make sure they don’t run out over the weekend. You may need to taper off slowly, and make sure you understand “extended release” if you are prescribed that type of pill!
Muscle relaxants (Spine-Health, 2019) can be used for short term relief of pain and muscle spasm. These may allow you to tolerate more movement after injury, which may decrease pain and lead to a quicker recovery. There is a “depressant” effect on the nervous system to relax the muscles, with common side effects of drowsiness and dizziness. Caution should be taken similar to opioids-(in mixing with alcohol etc.) They are prescription only, and should be monitored by a physician.
Whatever medication you may choose to use help with pain management, consider this option to help you plan ahead to keep your medication organized! (affiliate link)
Helpful questions to ask regarding medication:
-Do I have to take regularly, or is it only “as needed”.
-How do I stop taking them (abruptly, or wean off)?
-Should I time them with other medications that I take?
-Do I need to avoid any other food, medication, or over the counter pills?
Here is a medication list freebie to help you stay organized:
Have you seen any recent positive or concerning trends? What else do you ask to ensure safe medication use?