Pain management doctors are responsible for selecting and prescribing the correct medications for their patients. There are a wide range of pain medications available, but many have side effects that can be quite severe. It’s important for doctors to weigh the risks with the benefits before prescribing these to patients.
When problems arise, pain management doctors will revise the system used to manage pain. While this must be done as safely as possible, it is also important that the discomfort is minimal for the patient. It can take some time to find the exact dose and medication type for each patient’s needs.
Over the Counter Drugs
While over the counter (OTC) painkillers are generally considered harmless when taken in the correct dose, they can actually cause problems. For patients with chronic pain, NSAIDs are a common choice. However, long term use of these drugs can cause kidney damage, as all the drugs are cleared from the blood through the kidneys. Any patient taking NSAIDs for more than six months should be tested twice a year to check for possible kidney damage.
Another issue with these medications is upset stomachs and ulcers. Any patient that has a history of stomach problems will need to be carefully checked before using these pills. Abdominal pain, black feces, dizziness and weakness when standing up can all be symptoms of something going wrong internally.
Prescription drugs for pain tend to be much stronger than OTC drugs, but they also carry an increased risk of side effects.
Opioids tend to cause addiction. For short term use, this is not usually a problem, but when the patient is dealing with chronic pain, addiction can be a real concern. These drugs include oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, morphine, codeine, meperidine, hydromorphone and propoxyphene.
When a patient is addicted to the drug, they have a physical need to take it and will experience withdrawal if the medication is stopped.
Patients over 65 or under the age of 26 are at higher risk of developing an addiction, especially if they have a history of drug abuse in the family. Women tend to become addicted more easily to painkillers than their male counterparts.
Doctors will be on the lookout for symptoms of addiction. Someone who is having problems with addiction to painkillers may require more and more of the medication in order for it to work. The patient may be going to several doctors to get multiple prescriptions and then taking extra medication. In these cases, intervention may be necessary and another drug may be used to manage the pain.
Managing pain also means managing the reaction the patient has to the medicine. Doctors and patients have to work together to find a medication or combination of painkillers that can be used to reduce discomfort and addiction symptoms.
All painkillers have the potential to cause harm, but they are very necessary. It is important that patients work with pain management doctors to prevent as many side effects as possible and to keep the patient as comfortable as possible.