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Pain management: pain medication

Pain is part of the body's natural response to infection or injury; it lets us know something is wrong. Acute pain is usually the result of inflammation somewhere in the body. Chronic or persistent pain can become more difficult to manage over time, and medicines are generally less effective for persistent pain than for other types of pain. Prescribed medicines should be used alongside other treatment approaches to support improved physical, psychological, and social functioning.

Which painkillers work best for my type of pain?

There are many different types of pain relief; differing in how they are given (gels, sprays, tablets) and in their strength. Mild to moderate pain can be treated with paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen.

Severe pain is usually treated with opioid painkillers such as tramadol, morphine, or fentanyl. Opioid painkillers work best in acute pain and when used for short time periods only. Long-term use of opioid painkillers can result in tolerance and dependence on the medicine, so they are often prescribed with a 'trial period' where desired outcomes are pre-agreed. 

Nerve pain can be harder to treat and medicines such as pregabalin and gabapentin are usually tried first.

Side effects

Pain medication side effects are relatively common and need to be considered and balanced with potential benefits. If your medicine is no longer relieving pain symptoms effectively, please speak to your prescriber.

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