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Pain Relievers

Also called: Analgesics, Pain killers, Pain medicines
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Summary

Pain relievers are medicines that reduce or relieve headaches, sore muscles, arthritis, or other aches and pains. There are many different pain medicines, and each one has advantages and risks. Some types of pain respond better to certain medicines than others. Each person may also have a slightly different response to a pain reliever.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are good for many types of pain. There are two main types of OTC pain medicines: acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are examples of OTC NSAIDs.

If OTC medicines don't relieve your pain, your doctor may prescribe something stronger. Many NSAIDs are also available at higher prescription doses. The most powerful pain relievers are opioids. They are very effective, but they can sometimes have serious side effects. There is also a risk of addiction. Because of the risks, you must use them only under a doctor's supervision.

There are many things you can do to help ease pain. Pain relievers are just one part of a pain treatment plan.

Start Here

  • Chronic Pain Medicines (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
  • Pain Relievers: Understanding Your OTC Options (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish

Diagnosis and Tests

Related Issues

  • Don't Double Up on Acetaminophen (Food and Drug Administration) Also in Spanish
  • Keeping Kidneys Safe: Smart Choices about Medicines From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
  • Pain Control after Surgery: Pain Medicines (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish

Specifics

  • Chronic Pain Medicines (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
  • Chronic Pain: Medication Decisions (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
  • Cortisone Shots (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
  • Nerve Blocks (American College of Radiology; Radiological Society of North America) Also in Spanish
  • NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) (American College of Rheumatology) Also in Spanish
  • Prescription Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medicines (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
  • Safe Use, Storage, and Disposal of Opioid Drugs (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
  • Support for People with Cancer: Cancer Pain Control From the National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute) - PDF

Clinical Trials

  • ClinicalTrials.gov: Analgesics From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)
  • ClinicalTrials.gov: Narcotics From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)

Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

  • Article: Paracetamol versus paracetamol/tramadol in postoperative intertrochanteric fracture: A noninferiority, randomized, controlled,...
  • Article: Effectiveness Of Intrathecal Dexmedetomidine In Combination With Hyperbaric Bupivacaine For Lower...
  • Article: Nonopioid Analgesic Prescriptions Filled after Surgery among Older Adults in Ontario,...
  • Pain Relievers -- see more articles

Find an Expert

  • Food and Drug Administration

Children

  • Accidental Exposures to Fentanyl Patches Continue to Be Deadly to Children (Food and Drug Administration) Also in Spanish
  • Acetaminophen and Children: Why Dose Matters (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
  • Codeine and Tramadol Can Cause Breathing Problems for Children (Food and Drug Administration) Also in Spanish

Patient Handouts

The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.

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