Pain Medications

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers include:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)

Both acetaminophen and NSAIDs reduce fever and relieve pain caused by muscle aches and stiffness, but only NSAIDs can also reduce inflammation (swelling and irritation). Acetaminophen and NSAIDs also work differently. NSAIDs relieve pain by reducing the production of prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that cause pain. Acetaminophen works on the parts of the brain that receive the “pain messages.” NSAIDs are also available in a prescription strength that can be prescribed by your physician.

Using NSAIDs increase the risk of heart attack or stroke and have also been known to cause stomach ulcers and bleeding. They can also cause kidney problems.

Topical pain relievers are also available without a doctor’s prescription. These products include creams, lotions, or sprays that are applied to the skin in order to relieve pain from sore muscles and arthritis. Some examples of topical pain relievers include Aspercreme, Ben-Gay, Icy Hot, and Capzasin-P.

ImageProduct Name
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Prescription Pain Relievers

Prescription pain relievers include:

What Are Corticosteroids?

Prescription corticosteroids provide relief for inflamed areas of the body by easing swelling, redness, itching and allergic reactions. Corticosteroids can be used to treat allergies, asthma and arthritis. When used to control pain, they are generally given in the form of pills or injections that target a certain joint. Examples include: prednisone, prednisolone, and methylprednisolone.

Prescription corticosteroids are strong medicines and may have serious side effects, including:

  • Weight gain
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Mood changes
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weakened immune system
  • Thinning of the bones

To minimize these potential side effects, corticosteroids are prescribed in the lowest dose possible for as short of a length of time as needed to relieve the pain.

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