March 01, 2015

Chronic pain medications

Targeted use works best

Chronic pain medications

It's not uncommon to think that pain can be relieved by a drug. That's because for shorter term pain — such as due to a headache, an injury or surgery — pain medications or other methods of pain control often work fairly well.

But when pain becomes chronic — meaning it doesn't go away with time — these medications may not work as well. Medications may begin to lose their effectiveness with longer term use, and some even begin to make pain worse or cause other unacceptable side effects, particularly in older adults. With chronic pain, medications alone usually aren't sufficient to control the problem efficiently for the long term. In fact, overuse of medications for this purpose frequently becomes part of the problem.

Still, appropriate medication use is an important part of developing a successful, comprehensive plan to manage many types of chronic pain. Knowing the benefits, risks and limitations of medications can help you navigate a path toward tolerable pain and improved quality of life.

Targeted options

Deciding on potential drug therapy for your chronic pain usually involves an analysis of the cause or causes of pain and knowing which type of drug may be beneficial. Potential side effects of drug options also are part of the analysis, as is the question of how a drug fits into your overall plan to ­address chronic pain or with treatment plans for other problems.

Antidepressant drugs are commonly used for multiple types of chronic pain problems — such...