Important points about pain medications

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teen girl taking meds

​​​General points

  • Pain medications can include pills, creams or ointments, patches and injections.
  • Medications have two different names. The generic name is the name of the active ingredient in the drug, for example ibuprofen. The brand name is the name given to the drug by the company that makes it, for example Advil® or Motrin®.
  • Sometimes, people with persistent pain need to take more than one medication at the same time.
  • The medication dose for you is based on your weight, age, the extent of your pain and your type of pain. Try not to compare your pain medication doses with those of others living with chronic pain.
  • All medications – whether over-the-counter or prescription – can cause side effects. It is important to discuss the different possible side effects with your doctor or nurse practitioner so they can advise you about managing them.

Communicating with your healthcare team and following instructions

  • Your medication needs to be taken exactly as your doctor or nurse practitioner prescribes it. This is the only way to make sure that you will get the best results, avoid harmful medication interactions or take too much of one medication, which could be dangerous.
  • Tell your doctor or nurse practitioner about all the treatments that you are using for your pain. They need to know about any prescription and over-the-counter drugs and any other remedies such as vitamins, minerals, supplements or naturopathic or homeopathic therapies. This information will help you avoid adverse side effects or drug interactions. Even if these items are “natural”, they can still interact negatively with your medications.
  • Always ask if you can independently take medications at home or take medications that have not been prescribed to you. This includes additional medication for pain relief and any other drugs, including alcohol​ or marijuana, which could make medications more dangerous.
  • Make sure you tell your doctor or nurse practitioner about any other medical conditions you might have, such as asthma, kidney or liver problems. This information can influence their choice of medications to prescribe.
Last updated: May 2nd 2016