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Pain Management (cont.)

Reasons to Control Pain

Controlling your pain can help you to:

  • Be active.
  • Sleep.
  • Cope better with your treatment for a health problem.
  • Enjoy family and friends.
  • Eat with pleasure.
  • Heal faster after an injury or surgery.

Long-term pain that isn't controlled can take the joy from your life. You may not be able to work. Physical activity may be too painful or exhausting. You may have a hard time sleeping at night, which can make you tired and cranky. Your outlook on life may change and strain your relationships with family and friends. You may become depressed and anxious. Controlling pain can help with all these things.


Many different treatments can ease pain. Medicines are the most common treatment. But to feel better, you also can try other things, such as reducing your stress level or changing how you think.

You also can try physical therapy, relaxation, acupuncture, and other ways to feel better. Talk with your doctor about what mix of treatments might work best for you.

Your treatment depends on several things, including:

  • How bad your pain is (based on what you tell your doctor).
  • How long you've had pain.
  • The type of pain you have. For example, you might take different medicine for joint pain than you would for nerve pain.
  • Other health problems you may have.

If you have pain for a long time, your treatment may change over time.

Medicines to treat pain

Several types of medicines can be used to treat pain. Most of these medicines can treat more than one kind of pain. So you may need to try a couple of medicines to see which works best for you. Your doctor will work with you to find the right types and dosage of medicine. You may take more than one kind of medicine at the same time.

Medicines for different types of pain


Types of pain


  • Example: Tylenol
  • Relieves mild to moderate pain but doesn't reduce inflammation
  • Often used for short-term (acute) pain
  • Muscle, joint, and bone pain
  • Organ pain


  • Muscle, joint, and bone pain

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS):

  • Examples: aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil and Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve)
  • Relieves pain and inflammation
  • May be used for short- or long-term (chronic) pain
  • Muscle, joint, and bone pain
  • Organ pain


  • Nerve pain

Opiate pain relievers:

  • Examples: acetaminophen and hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab) and morphine (Kadian, MS Contin)
  • Used to treat cancer pain
  • Used for severe short-term pain (such as from injury or after surgery)
  • May be used for long-term pain
  • Organ pain

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) antidepressants:

  • Nerve pain
  • Organ pain

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants:

  • Can be used for any type of pain

Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants:

  • Can be used for any type of pain

All medicines have side effects. For more information, see the Side Effects of Pain Medicines section of this topic.

Learn more about:

Other treatments

You may want to try other ways to help you relax and ease pain. These may include:

  • Acupuncture. Very thin needles are put into the skin at certain places on your body to relieve pain.
  • Biofeedback. You may use this to help control muscle tension, heart rate, and other reactions to pain.
  • Heat or cold. These can help arthritis. You also can use heat or cold for sore muscles and other aches.
  • Hypnosis. This may help you focus your mind on something other than your pain.
  • Massage. This can reduce muscle tension.
  • Meditation. This may help you focus your mind on something other than your pain. It also can reduce stress.
  • Physical therapy. This treatment can improve how you move and your overall fitness.
  • Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS). A mild electrical current is used to relieve pain.
  • Click here to view an Actionset.Yoga. This may increase your strength and how well you move. It also can reduce stress.

For more information, see the topic Complementary Medicine.

Click here to view a Decision Point.Complementary Medicine: Should I Use Complementary Medicine?

Reducing stress

Stress can make pain worse. It can tighten your muscles, which can cause headaches and pain in your neck, shoulders, and back.

Try these methods to reduce stress and pain:

For more information, see the topic Stress Management.

Changing how you think

How you think can affect how you feel. You may be able to reduce your pain by having positive thoughts. You can change what you say to yourself about your pain. To help your outlook, try the methods described in these topics:

For more information, see the topic Positive Thinking With Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

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