Chronic pain conditions affect millions of Americans every year. Chronic pain conditions can be much more difficult to treat than pain from acute injuries or illnesses, and they often require more treatment than just a prescription for pain medication. However, pain medications can be extremely helpful in managing the level of pain associated with chronic pain conditions. For many people, pain medications help reduce the level of pain enough that it is possible to make other healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercise and rehabilitation. One of the most common types of pain medication are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs.
There are NSAIDs that are available over-the-counter or by prescription. Familiar NSAIDs that are available over-the-counter are ibuprofen and naproxen. Acetaminophen is sometimes referred to as an NSAID, but it is actually a slightly different type of drug, which is not quite as effective at reduction of inflammation. Prescription NSAIDs may be different compounds that are not available at all over-the-counter, or stronger dosages of NSAIDs that are available over-the-counter. COX-2 inhibitors, for example, are NSAIDs that are not available over-the-counter. Regardless of whether you are taking prescription NSAIDs or over-the-counter medications to control your chronic pain, you should always talk to your doctor about the medications you are taking and the best ways to manage your pain in a healthy way.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have both pain-relieving properties and inflammation-reducing properties. They interfere with chemicals involved in the pain response, and chemicals that are involved in the inflammatory process. Because of this, they are incredibly useful for treating painful injuries that involve mild to moderate swelling and inflammation.
NSAIDs are considered safe enough to be available without a prescription for treating a variety of pains. They are also non-addictive, unlike opioid pain medications. However, there are still risks involved with NSAID use, especially long-term or high-dosage use. One of the main risks of NSAID medications is gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding and circulatory problems such as blood clots, heart attack and stroke. These side effects are rare, but the probability of them occurring increases with high doses taken on a long-term basis. Acetaminophen can also be toxic to your liver in high doses.
NSAIDs are very useful drugs for controlling pain and inflammation, but if you find yourself taking them frequently or in doses higher than recommended to control your pain, talk to your doctor. There may be other types of pain medications and other treatments that can help you control your pain more efficiently and with fewer side effects than high-dose NSAIDs.