General Guidelines for Using Pain Relievers
Both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription pain relievers are used to help control and relieve pain and associated symptoms. When they are used as directed, these analgesics are both highly effective and quite safe. However, it is the patient's responsibility to use these drugs correctly. That includes monitoring dosages and frequency of use, while watching for side effects, avoiding interactions, and ceasing the use of the medication when symptoms wane or disappear.
Some pain medications, particularly prescription-strength opioid derivatives, have some potential for abuse, dependence, and addition according to numerous research studies. Thus, it is particularly important that you pay careful attention to safe usage guidelines if your doctor has prescribed these drugs to help treat pain.
Guide to Safe Use of Pain Relievers: What to Do Before Taking a Painkiller
There are certain things you should do before taking any OTC or prescription painkiller. These include:
- Check for drug interactions. If you are on any other medications, you may not be able to take certain painkillers because of the potential for interactions or contraindications. Your doctor will discuss these with you when prescribing painkillers; but if you have any questions about OTC drugs, ask a pharmacist prior to use.
- Read the label. Know the dosage guidelines, including how often you can safely take the medication and what the upper daily limit for the medication is. Do not exceed these.
- Understand the side effects. You should also anticipate any possible side effects. Typical side effects of pain medications include dry mouth, stomach discomfort, nausea, and sleepiness. However, side effects differ from one medication to the next.
Guidelines to Follow During Treatment
When you begin taking a new painkiller, you should watch for:
- Allergic reactions. All drugs have the potential to cause allergic reactions. You should be on heightened alert if you have ever had an allergic reaction to any drug, regardless of whether or not it was a painkiller. Signs of a serious allergic reaction include the sudden appearance of a rash or hives, itching, difficulty breathing, and swollen or discolored lips and/or tongue. Treat these symptoms as a medical emergency and see a doctor immediately as some allergic reactions can be life-threatening.
- Side effects. Since you will be anticipating possible side effects, you should check to see which, if any, appear. Also, monitor their severity. If the drug provides effective pain relief but also has significant side effects, your doctor may be able to switch you over to a comparable alternative that carries a reduced risk of uncomfortable side effects.
- Your response to the drug. Here, you're going to monitor how well the drug relieves your pain, and what kind of dosage you have to take in order to achieve pain relief. If pain persists despite the fact that you have taken the recommended dosage of the drug, cease its use and consult a doctor or pharmacist. There are different types of pain, and different drugs work in different ways. You may need to try another painkiller in order to relieve your symptoms.
Guidelines to Follow After Treatment
Once your pain is under control, you should gradually reduce your intake of the drug, or stop taking it altogether, depending on the instructions of your doctor or pharmacist. At this point, you should see how your body responds to the discontinuation of the drug. If you can still feel pain, how severe is it, and does it seem to get better from one day to the next? Are you experiencing any withdrawal symptoms? If so, you should talk to your doctor. This can happen with medium- to long-term use of opioid analgesics, and treatments are available which can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and prevent any possibility of dependence or addiction.