Learning About Various Types of Pain Relief Medications


Pain relief medications or pain relievers are medicines used to alleviate the discomfort or aches felt by an individual. These medications come in several types and may be classified as over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers or prescription pain relievers. The most commonly used pain-relieving medications fall under these types: anti-inflammatory drugs, compound painkillers, opioid painkillers, and non-opioid painkillers.

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Also known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), these types of pain relievers are used to relieve the pain and symptoms of headaches, arthritis, back pain, neck pain, muscle strains and sprains, period cramps, and toothaches. NSAIDS can be obtained either through prescriptions or over-the-counter medications. Examples of these types of pain relievers include celecoxib, aspirin, naproxen, diclofenac, and ibuprofen.

Compound Painkillers

These pain relievers combine the use of two different types of drugs to relieve pain. Usually, the medications used are standard painkillers and opioid painkillers, which are given in low doses. Ordinary painkillers include paracetamol, ibuprofen, and aspirin, while opioid painkillers include low doses of codeine or dihydrocodeine. Compound painkillers may be bought over the counter if they are in low doses. High doses can only be purchased with a doctor’s prescription.

Opioid Painkillers

Opioid medications are given to individuals suffering from moderate to severe pain. These medications effectively treat backaches, headaches, and pain caused by injuries in sports, auto accidents, and falls. These medications are also given to individuals recovering from major surgery or suffering from pain caused by cancer.

Opioids treat pain by blocking the pain messages sent by the body to the brain via the spinal cord. They attach themselves to the proteins called opioid receptors, which are found on the nerve cells of the brain, gut, spinal cord, and other parts of the human body.

While these medications are highly efficient in treating pain, they also come with side effects that may be serious. Some known side effects of opioid pain relief medications include constipation, sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, slowed heart rate, loss of consciousness, and shallow breathing. Worst, a person taking opioids to manage pain may become dependent and addicted to these drugs.

People who become addicted to opioids may be treated, but the treatment can be long and exhausting. Treatment for opioid dependence often includes opiate detoxification with the use of methadone or buprenorphine. Methadone is a longer-acting synthetic analgesic drug that has similar effects as morphine. Buprenorphine is an advanced medication-assisted treatment used to help people quit using heroin or other opioids, such as morphine.


Non-opioid Painkillers

These types of painkillers are used as alternatives. These include the use of simple analgesics, which can be easily purchased over the counter or through prescriptions. Simple analgesics include paracetamol and a range of NSAIDS. Other pain-killing medications included under this type are adjuvant medications, topical medications, ketamine, alpha 2 agonist, bisphosphonates, and cannabis or cannabinoids.

Adjuvant medications are medicines that are primarily created for the treatment of epilepsy, depression, and many other non-analgesic reasons. These medications have been proven to be effective in alleviating or treating neuropathic pain. Medicines that are classified under these medications include anti-depressants and anticonvulsants.

Topical medications are medications applied to the skin to offer relief from muscle pain, toothache, backache, and more are called topical medications or topical painkillers. Popular options for these types include analgesic creams, sprays, and rubs. Although all of these products are applied to the skin for pain relief purposes, they do not carry the same ingredients. Therefore, it is essential to read labels first before using them.

Ketamine is often given to people who underwent surgery or who are being treated for burns. It helps lower the need to provide those people with addictive painkillers, such as morphine. The use of ketamine can be traced back to the 1960s during the Vietnam War. It was primarily used as an anesthetic by then. It could relieve pain when given in lower doses, which helped sedatives work better.

Alpha 2 agonist is primarily used to treat certain medical conditions, such as hypertension, alcohol withdrawal, benzodiazepine, cigarette craving, various pain and panic disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In recent years, though, this medication has been used as an adjunct for sedation and reduced anesthetic requirements.

Bisphosphonates are used to provide relief to pain associated with bone metastasis. They provide comfort to individuals suffering from extreme pain caused by invaded bones or to patients with cancer. Bisphosphonates are highly effective because they affect how the bone develops. These medications are also used in the treatment of patients with hypercalcemia.

Finally, cannabis is used to relieve chronic pain, poor appetite, glaucoma, and many other medical conditions. It is known in several names, such as weed, pot, marijuana, and many more. Non-opioid treatments may also include physical therapy, acupuncture, surgery, and injections.

With this knowledge, one can make well-informed decisions on which to use, according to their pain and preference.

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