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Chronic Pain Treatment

Medications for Treating Chronic Pain

Pain-relieving medications remain the cornerstone of chronic pain treatment. These drugs can be quite effective for many people, but usually provide only partial, not complete, pain relief.
No single medicine works for everyone, so you may need to try several different medicines, and different drug combinations, before finding the right treatment for you. In addition, because chronic pain can fluctuate over time, your healthcare provider may need to periodically change your medicine doses or switch you to other medications as your pain worsens or gets better.  
Several different types of medicines are available to treat chronic pain. Most of these can generally be categorized into the following groups:
  • Non-opioid pain relievers: These medicines are usually tried first to treat many types of chronic pain. They may also be used in combination with opioids to provide additional pain relief. Non-opioid pain relievers include:
  • Opioid (narcotic) pain medicines: Opioids are stronger pain relievers that are used if non-opioid pain medicines are not working. Examples of opioids include codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine.
  • Tramadol (Ultram®): This is a prescription medicine approved to treat moderate-to-moderately severe pain. It is not considered a controlled substance on the federal level, but does appear to have the potential for addiction and abuse.
  • Antiseizure medicines: Also called anticonvulsants, these have been shown to help with certain types of pain, especially nerve pain and fibromyalgia. Examples of antiseizure medicines used to treat pain include gabapentin (Neurontin®), pregabalin (Lyrica®), and carbamazepine.
  • Topical pain medicines: These include creams, gels, and sprays that are applied directly to the skin. Examples include the lidocaine patch (Lidoderm®), which is a prescription medicine, and capsaicin, a substance found in chili peppers that can help with pain when applied to the skin. Capsaicin creams are available over-the-counter (OTC), without a prescription.
  • Other medicines: These may be used to treat additional symptoms associated with chronic pain. For example, sleep medicines may be given to treat insomnia.
Alternative Therapies for Pain Management
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