By: Andrea Neilson, Pharmacist at Yurek Specialties
If living your best life is the path, then chronic pain is the speedbump. Fortunately, we have several forms of medication that can offer some relief to the nearly eight million Canadians suffering from chronic pain.
You feel pain when the sensory receptors throughout your body send messages along nerve fibres to your brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, where you interpret the message as pain. The causes of long-term pain can vary but most often result from accident, disease, or musculoskeletal problems. Back, joint and nerve pain as well as headaches represent the most common types of chronic pain. Several types of medication can help relieve that pain, but they don’t all work the same way.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are over-the-counter medications that include ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), as well as prescription options such as diclofenac (Voltaren), ketorolac (Toradol) and others. They treat pain by lowering the production of prostaglandins, a hormone that irritates nerve endings and causes pain and inflammation.
Opioids are tightly-controlled prescriptions that include codeine, morphine, fentanyl and oxycodone. They work by binding to opioid receptors in your body, blocking the messages that your brain interprets as pain.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol and Tempra) is available over the counter. We don’t know exactly how acetaminophen works, but in general terms it elevates your body’s pain threshold. Acetaminophen targets pain but does not reduce inflammation like NSAIDs. It also works to reduce fever.
Your doctor will target a pain regimen that is specific to you and your unique medical history. It will often include a step wise approach and may include non-drug ways to boost the benefit of your pain medication.
All forms of pain medication can be harmful in the wrong dose and may not be appropriate for everyone. For more information about safe use and side effects, contact a Yurek pharmacist or check the Health Canada website.