There are a variety of pain medications on the market. Some are more commonly used than others. When a person is in pain, it can often be difficult to determine which medication is most appropriate to use for what ailment. That’s why medical advice should be sought. This web site (or any other for that matter) should not be used in place of any medical health professional. However, we do try to provide some information that may be useful in educating you on the basic differences amongst the over the counter and prescription options available to you.
We have a list of offerings below with a brief description alongside each. Where a link is available, feel free to click on that for even more information about that particular medication.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): commonly used as treatments for osteoarthritis pain, NSAIDs are available over the counter or by prescription. Over the counter examples are aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). Diclofenac (Catoflam and Voltaren) is another NSAID available. Ketorolac (Toradol) can be injected for speedy, but short-lived pain relief. While NSAIDs quickly relieve pain, users need to be informed about possible risks, side effects, and other drug interactions.
For example, long-term use of NSAIDs can cause minor gastrointestinal bleeding to liver and kidney poisoning. NSAIDs can interact with other drugs, even over the counter medications (such as antacids) reducing pain relief and other adverse reactions. Great care must be taken with prescription and over the counter medications, follow all label instructions and consult your health care provider.
Oral Tramadol (Ultram): used for moderate to severe pain. Although classified as a non-narcotic drug by the FDA, some cases of addiction have been reported. A seizure link has been established for susceptible individuals, especially those taking high doses of Tramadol, and for those taking antidepressant drugs, such as desipramine (Norpramine), doxepin (Sinequan), fluoxetine hydrochloride (Prozac), sertraline hydrochloride (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Paxil).
Narcotic Drugs (Opioids): derived from opium and used for severe pain, these drugs include propoxyphine (Darvon), codeine (Tylenol#3 or 4), hydrocodone (Vicodin and Lorcet), and oxycodone (Percodan and Percocet). These narcotics provide quick relief of pain, allowing more daytime activity and nighttime sleep. Opioids lead to dependency and do have side effects. Therefore, they are only used after more conservative treatment options fail such as those with advanced arthritis. All opioids have a low ceiling effect, which means that only small doses are useful.
Mixed Agonists/Antagonists (Synthetic Narcotics): These include pentazocine (Talwin-NX or Talace), nalbuphine (Nubaine), butorphanol (Stadol or Stadol NS), and buprenorphine (Buprenex). Most of these are injected intravenously and are usually reserved for very serious conditions or those who are already hospitalized.
Viscosupplements: injected into the knee, this product renews joint viscosity. These items go by the names Hyalgan and Synvisc.
Glucosamine Sulfate: can relieve pain for both types of arthritis and potentially rebuild damaged cartilage for osteoarthritis sufferers. Made from seashells, the pain relief offered with glucosamine does not have the side effects of NSAIDs.
Cortisone: considered as a last resort treatment, and used on a short term basis. There are many side effects with long term use, including osteoporosis, cataracts, glaucoma, high blood pressure, stomach bleeding, and more.
Corticosteroids: prednisone is one example of a corticosteroid, and acts quickly to reduce pain and swelling, is injected into the joint and has the same side effects as cortisone.