According to the CDC, in 2016, an estimated 20.4% of the US adults suffered from chronic pain and 8% of the US adults suffered from high-impact chronic pain.
In the United States, chronic pain is a common condition among Americans. Symptoms of this condition include muscle aches, fatigue, trouble sleeping at night, loss of stamina & flexibility, mood swings, anxiety, and irritability.
There’s a wide range of pain management medications available, which can relieve pain, thus boosting mood, relaxation, and sleep. Read on to learn how do the medications work and are they safe to consume for chronic pain patients?
Chronic Pain Management Medications
Over-The-Counter Pain Medications
These are Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) or diclofinac gel. The medications are effective in relieving pain associated with muscle aches. However, NSAIDs can also help in reducing inflammation.
Acetaminophen works by interacting with some parts of the brain, which involves receiving pain signals. But, NSAIDs work by reducing the production of prostaglandins, which are associated with redness, pain, and swelling.
NSAIDs use can lead to several side-effects. These include—heart attack/stroke, stomach ulcers & bleeding, and kidney problems.
These include—prednisone, prednisolone, and methylprednisolone. Corticosteroids are effective in providing relief from swelling, itching, redness, and allergic reactions. The medications can help in treating arthritis, asthma, and allergies. Corticosteroids are used for targeting certain joints and are available in the form of injections and pills.
Although corticosteroids can be used for reducing pain, they may have serious side-effects. These include—mood swings, weight gain, sleep problems, and weakening of the immune system.
To minimize side-effects, make sure you take small doses of corticosteroids. However, you should seek professional help from a licensed doctor before using the medication.
Opioids, also called narcotics, can help in relieving persistent or severe pain. Some of the examples of opioids are—Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone-acetaminophen (Vicodin), Oxycodone, Morphine, and Oxycodone-acetaminophen (Percocet).
Opioids work blocking pain signals by interacting with the opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, gut, and other parts. It’s necessary to note that these medications can be addictive and can cause various side-effects including constipation, nausea, trouble sleeping, itching, and breathing problems.
Antidepressants are effective in reducing pain and mental illnesses by increasing/decreasing certain neurotransmitters in the brain. These medications can help in promoting relaxation and sleep. Low doses of antidepressants can be used for treating headaches, migraines or menstrual pain. Examples of antidepressant medications are-
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)—sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac), and paroxetine (Paxil).
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)—venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Tricyclic antidepressants—amitriptyline, desipramine (Norpramin), doxepin (Silenor), imipramine (Tofranil), and nortriptyline (Pamelor)
Antidepressants can cause various side-effects—blurry vision, constipation, nausea, headache, fatigue, and dry mouth.
Researchers have found that medical marijuana can help in promoting relaxation and reducing pain. The herb contains over 100 cannabinoids, which possess medicinal properties. When you consume cannabinoids in any form, they interact with the cannabinoid receptors present in the body’s endocannabinoid system, thus providing relaxing effects.
The most important cannabinoids present in marijuana are-
- THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)- A psychoactive compound responsible for causing high-effects
- CBD (cannabidiol)- A non-psychoactive compound, which provides health effects without causing any high-effects.
What about cannabis legalization in the United States?
In America, marijuana is illegal as per federal regulations. Still, 33 states have legalized its medical use. To access medical marijuana legally from any state-licensed dispensary, you require an MMJ recommendation letter signed by a doctor.
Chronic pain can cause a lot of problems in a patient’s life. It can interfere with relationships, sleep quality, and focus at work. There’s a wide range of pain management medications available, which work differently. SSRIs work by increasing the serotonin levels, thus providing relaxing effects. NSAIDs work by reducing the production of prostaglandins while Acetaminophen works by interacting with brain areas that receive pain signals. Opioids interact with the opioid receptors present in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas. Researchers have found that medical marijuana can also help in reducing pain by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Everyone has a different condition, thus require customized treatment for alleviating the symptoms. It’s good to analyze the effects of different medications on your condition and examine the side-effects if any to avoid any problem later on. However, before you take any medication, visit a reputed pain management center to discuss your condition and seek professional help on what’s right for you.