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Pain doesn’t have to be a normal part of life. Here are tips to help you label your pain and work with your doctor to treat it.
Long-term (chronic) pain is pain that lasts for a long time. It may come and go for months or years and lead to depression, loneliness, inability to work, problems walking, falls, sleep problems, and loss of hunger. But, there are ways you can treat your pain.
The first step is to keep track of your pain and tell your doctor about it. Use a diary to keep track of:
Rate the pain using a scale of 1-10. You should bring this diary to all your health visits. You and your doctor can use it to find ways to treat your pain.
Over-the-counter and prescription pain medicines can help treat pain.
If you have mild to medium pain that lasts a few days, over-the-counter medicines are safe and helpful. If your pain is strong or lasts longer than a few days, you might need prescription pain medicine.
There are 2 main types of over-the-counter pain medicines:
If you have severe pain, your doctor may prescribe pain medicine. Some common ones are:
These are like over-the-counter NSAIDs, but they block pain and swelling. They cost more than other NSAIDs, but do not bother the stomach as much.
Opioids may be a better choice for older adults who are at risk of problems that NSAIDs can cause. People worry that opioids are addicting. But addiction is rare in older adults who have never abused drugs. This worry should not stop people and their doctors from thinking of them as an option. Your doctor can use tests to tell if you are at risk.
If you are taking an opioid medicine, you should not stop taking it without talking to your doctor. You will need to stop taking it slowly so you do not have problems.
Your doctor may also prescribe one of these medicines alone or with pain medicines:
Tell your doctor about any problems you have when you take medicine. There are other options. Some problems include:
Medicines are not the only way to ease pain. Here are some things that can help:
Here are some other ways to ease pain:
Even if these methods don’t make your pain go away, you may be able to lower it. You do not have to suffer. Work with your doctor to find some relief.
American Chronic Pain Association
American Pain Society
Chronic Pain Association of Canada
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Last reviewed May 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 4/19/2018