Chronic pain can limit your quality of life and lead to additional health problems. Finding treatment is important, as is balancing pain relief with your safety.
Like any long-term health problem, chronic pain often leads to complications beyond your physical symptoms, such as new or worsened depression, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. The condition can make it more difficult to keep up at work, manage tasks at home and attend social gatherings. This could lead to problems in your relationships and financial instability.
The consequences of chronic pain make finding effective treatment critical. But this process is complex and personal. What works for one person's chronic low back pain may not relieve your osteoarthritis. Your diagnosis, biology and personal history all play a role, and finding pain therapies that bring you adequate relief can be a lengthy effort.
Working in partnership with your health care provider, however, you can identify treatments that enable you to live an enjoyable, fulfilling life. The approach you choose should include more than just medication, but painkillers are likely to play a role. Learn about the risks and benefits of common pain medications, so that you can make safe choices as you seek your solution.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID)
NSAIDs are most effective for mild to moderate pain that's accompanied by swelling and inflammation. These drugs commonly are used for arthritis and pain resulting from muscle sprains, strains, back and neck injuries, or menstrual cramps.
- Generic (brand) names
NSAIDs include ibuprofen sold as Advil and Motrin IB as well as other names, and naproxen sodium, sold as Aleve.
- How they work
NSAIDs work by inhibiting certain enzymes in your body, called cyclooxygenase, that are released during tissue damage. By blocking the different types of cyclooxygenase (COX), including COX-1 and COX-2, NSAIDs can reduce pain and inflammation resulting from an injury.
- Benefits and risks
When taken as directed, NSAIDs are generally safe. But if you take more than the recommended dosage — and sometimes even just the recommended dosage — NSAIDs may cause nausea, stomach pain, stomach bleeding or ulcers. Large doses of NSAIDs also can lead to kidney problems, fluid retention and high blood pressure. Risk of these conditions increases with age and in the presence of other health problems, including diabetes, a history of stomach ulcers or reflux, and kidney disease.
- Bottom line
If you regularly take NSAIDs, talk to your health care provider, so that he or she can monitor you for possible side effects. Bear in mind that NSAIDs also have a "ceiling effect." That is, there is a limit as to how much pain they can control. Beyond a certain dosage, they don't provide additional benefit. Exceeding the recommended dose may not relieve your pain and may increase your risk of side effects.