By Louis Neipris, M.D., Staff Writer, myOptumHealth
If you are like a lot of seniors, then pain from severe arthritis, or another condition may be a daily reality. But you don't have to accept pain as part of getting older. If you are not taking medication or if your current regimen of medicines is not quelling the pain, then it's time to speak up.
Your doctor may be able to suggest physical therapy, massage or other treatments together with pain medication. Maybe it's time to see your doctor and rethink your pain management strategy.
What are my non-prescription pain medication options?
For many, acetaminophen (like Tylenol) and NSAIDs are two common over-the-counter options for minor pain.
Do not take ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) with aspirin (even low dose). Also, don't take aspirin or NSAIDs if you take other blood thinning medications unless instructed by your doctor.
What can the doctor prescribe for more severe pain?
Opioids (also called narcotics). If acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) isn't working, and NSAIDs would not be safe to use, your doctor may prescribe a stronger pain medication called an opioid. Opioid drugs are related to morphine, which is used in severe pain. But, there are weaker forms of opioids that can be used for different kinds of pain. Some common opioids include hydrocodone, codeine and oxycodone.
Antiepileptic drugs. Some medications used to treat epilepsy are also effective for nerve pain (neuropathic pain). You may be prescribed an antiepileptic for diabetic neuropathy, or the pain that follows shingles. These are painful conditions caused by peripheral nerve damage. One of the medicines from this class that may be used for pain is gabapentin (Neurontin).
SSRIs or other antidepressants. Your doctor may prescribe certain types of antidepressants, such as an SSRI, for certain types of pain.
Muscle relaxants. These medications may be added to another pain medication for back pain with muscle spasm. The main drawback of muscle relaxants is that they can be very sedating. You should take the lowest possible dose.
Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are not the same type of steroids abused by athletes. Your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid for inflammation or painful bone cancer. For some types of arthritis confined to one joint, your doctor may inject a corticosteroid to reduce pain and inflammation.
Topical pain medicines. Salicylates and some anesthetics (numbing drugs used during surgery) can be delivered in small doses to the skin as an ointment or patch.
What is important to me?
Deciding on a drug or drug combination for pain can be a challenge for you and your doctor. You may hold deeply seated personal beliefs about taking pain medication. You may feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help. Many people feel this way.
But it's important to look at whether pain is getting in the way of your daily life. If it is, talk to your doctor about your pain and how you feel about taking pain medication. Sometimes, pain can be managed with a combination of therapies, such as physical therapy and medication. You may be able to find answers that put you back in control.
View the original Tylenol, nsaids and opioid pain medicine for seniors article on myOptumHealth.com
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