Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain conditions every year. The first medications that are most likely to be prescribed for chronic pain, except pain that is obviously due to nerve damage, fall under the category called analgesics. “Algia” is the Latin root word that means “pain,” so analgesics are anti-pain agents. Most pain medications that people can think of fall under this category of drugs. The category covers any medication that decreases pain without causing lack of sensation. Unlike anesthetics, they don’t block all sensations in an area, but they do interfere with how pain signals are interpreted by the brain.
There are two basic categories of analgesic medications that achieve pain relief by different methods: Narcotic (opioid) pain relievers and non-narcotic pain relievers. Examples of opioid pain medications include morphine and Vicodin, with morphine being a simple medication composed of one compound and Vicodin being a mix of two different compounds, hydrocodone and paracetamol.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are also considered analgesic medications. These medications have other properties, such as the ability to interfere with the inflammatory process. However, they have pain-relieving properties as well. Examples of non-narcotic analgesics include acetaminophen, naproxen and ibuprofen.
Each of these types of medications has potential problems. Narcotic pain medications can be extremely habit-forming, and a person who is using them to treat chronic pain conditions is more likely to misuse them than a person who is using them to relieve pain from an acute injury. If someone becomes addicted to opioid medications, withdrawal is very difficult and painful to go through and overdose can be a danger. NSAIDs, on the other hand, can cause dangerous side effects like gastrointestinal bleeding if they are used for long periods of time and in high doses.
Both of these types of analgesics can be an extremely helpful part of a person’s chronic pain management plan, but relying solely on these medications to control severe pain for long periods of time can be dangerous. Other things that may be helpful for a person suffering from chronic pain include counseling, physical therapy, exercise, diet changes, additional medical procedures and relaxation techniques. A patient’s general physician may refer them to specialists such as physical therapists and psychologists within the same medical system, or in some cases the patient may be referred to a pain clinic that is staffed with many specialists that are well-versed in treating chronic pain disorders.
Non-Surgical Orthopaedics, P.C. specialized in chronic pain management. Call 770-421-1420 for an appointment today.