Diseases & Conditions

Analgesic - Pain Medications


Analgesic

A pain medicine lessens the amount, duration, or sensation of pain.

What is the information for this topic?

Over-the-counter pain medicine

Many pain medicines are available over the counter, without a prescription. Common over-the-counter pain medicines include:

  • acetaminophen
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are all NSAIDs.
  • Prescription pain medicine

    Prescription pain medicines are available only with a prescription from a healthcare provider. Examples include:

  • anticonvulsants, which can relieve chronic nerve pain. Examples include phenytoin and carbamazepine.
  • antidepressants, which may relieve certain kinds of chronic pain. Common antidepressants include amitriptyline, trazodone, and imipramine.
  • capsaicin, a cream that can relieve skin pain caused by shingles, nerve problems, and other causes
  • corticosteroids, which can relieve pain from inflammation
  • narcotics, which are the most effective for moderate to severe pain. Common narcotics include morphine, codeine, meperidine, and oxycodone.
  • sumatriptan and naratriptan, which can relieve the pain of a migraine headache
  • tramadol, which is used mainly for chronic pain
  • Side effects

    All medicines have potential side effects, including allergic reactions. Other common side effects of pain medicines include:

  • diabetes and osteoporosis with long-term use of corticosteroids
  • dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea with tramadol
  • drowsiness and confusion with anticonvulsants
  • drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and potential addiction with narcotics
  • dry mouth, drowsiness, and constipation with antidepressants
  • increased blood sugar and increased risk of infection with corticosteroid use
  • liver damage with high doses of acetaminophen, especially when it's used for long periods of time
  • rarely, increased blood pressure with sumatriptan and naratriptan
  • stomach upset, diarrhea, and rarely bleeding and kidney problems with NSAIDs
  • Some people have severe pain that won't respond to over-the-counter pain medicines. These people should talk to their healthcare provider. Pain can be a sign of a serious problem. If it is not, a healthcare provider can prescribe stronger medicine or suggest a specialist who can help control chronic pain.