Understanding your medicines
Pain medication may help you increase your activity levels or improve your sleep. It can ‘take the edge off’ pain so it gets in the way of life less. In the short term, medication can help you get going again after an injury.
For people with chronic pain medication can be part of the answer. Usually there is no medication which can totally get rid of chronic pain. In fact, pain medication is often described as successful if pain is reduced by a third to a half. This is because of the different way chronic pain works in the body.
There are different types of pain medication and each type works differently. Some medicines need to be taken consistently for days or even weeks before they help. Others start working within minutes or hours. Your GP or pharmacist can help you decide which pain medications are helpful for your problem.
It will depend on what kind of pain you have, your medical history and your lifestyle. Some people do not find pain medication helpful. Your views should be taken into account when deciding.
Useful questions to ask about your medication
- What is my medication called? Why am I prescribed it?
- How and when should I take it?
- What are the benefits of my medication?
- What are the side effects and long term risks of this medication?
- How will I know if it is helping me?
- How long should I take this medication for?
- What should I do if I want to stop taking this medication?
- What alternatives are available?
Pharmacists can advise on what over the counter medications may help you. They can also give advice about your prescribed medication.
If you have been using the same pharmacy for your prescriptions for three months you can ask for a review to discuss all your medications. You usually need to book a time but this service is free. Some GP practices have their own pharmacists who you can see to discuss your medication. Your practice can advise on whether this is available.
Your GP can discuss your medication options. They can prescribe pain medication if it would help your condition. Your GP can also help you cut down or stop your pain medication if they agree this is appropriate.
Many people manage their long term pain well with the support of their pharmacist or GP. A small number of people with long-term pain need specialist help from a pain clinic. If your GP thinks you would benefit from this they can refer you to your local clinic.