How to manage pain: tips from a CenterWell Pharmacy pharmacist
Everyone experiences pain, from childhood to old age. Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells you that something may be wrong or helps you avoid something that can hurt you.¹
Untreated or undertreated pain can have unwanted physical and emotional consequences like an increased heart rate, mobility limitations and a prolonged state of stress.²
To help you learn more about pain, we’ve asked Melissa Mastromarino, a CenterWell Pharmacy® clinical programs pharmacist, to discuss the different types of pain and general ways pain is treated.
Now—let’s hear from Melissa:
Different types of pain
To begin, let’s talk about pain types and levels. There are 2 main pain types—acute and chronic.³ Acute pain goes away after your body heals from an injury or illness and may last from a few hours to 3 months.⁴ Chronic pain lasts months or years after you recover from an injury or illness and can come and go.⁵
We all feel pain differently, but generally speaking, there are 3 levels of pain—mild, moderate and severe.⁶
• Mild pain is noticeable but usually doesn’t impact daily activities
• Moderate pain may interfere with daily activities but, for the most part, you can still do them
• Severe pain stops you from doing everyday activities and impacts how you think and sleep
Treating pain without medication
Depending on your health condition or injury, 1 or more of the following options may effectively relieve your pain if you don’t want to use medication.
Non-medicated pain management chart
Treating mild to moderate pain
Mild to moderate pain can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription non-opioid pain relievers, in addition to the non-medicated options above.
• Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is an OTC drug than can be used to treat mild to moderate non-inflammatory pain like headaches.
• Aspirin (Bayer®), ibuprofen (Motrin®) and naproxen (Aleve®) are OTC non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can be used to treat mild to moderate pain with an inflammatory component—think muscle sprains or tendonitis.
• Prescription NSAIDs like muscle relaxants and topical pain relievers (medication applied to your skin) may also be used to treat mild to moderate pain.
• Prescription muscle relaxants like cyclobenzaprine can be used to treat muscle spasms.
• Topical pain relievers like lidocaine can help reduce musculoskeletal pain or arthritis. OTC versions include Aspercreme®, BenGay® and Voltaren® gel.
Treating severe pain
Severe pain is disabling and may need to be treated with opioid pain relievers such as codeine, morphine or hydrocodone. Opioids are often prescribed temporarily for acute pain following an injury or surgery but can also be used for chronic conditions like cancer or rheumatoid arthritis.⁷
Opioid medications are highly addictive, which is why it’s important to take them as prescribed by your healthcare provider.⁸ If you’re prescribed an opioid medication, you should work with your care team to establish realistic expectations about your pain relief goals.
Pain can be hard to talk about because it’s something only you feel. If you’re experiencing any pain, you should discuss it with your healthcare provider.
Here are some tips to get you started:
• Keep a log of your pain so you can share how often it happens.
• Tell your provider where your pain is and be specific.
• Share what type of pain you’re experiencing such as sharp, throbbing or aching pain.
• Describe your pain level on a scale from 1 to 10 (mild to severe).
Talking with your healthcare provider about your pain is an important first step to finding relief.
Disclaimer: This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult your doctor to determine what is right for you.
- “Everything You Need to Know about Pain,” Healthline, last accessed August 23, 2021, https://www.healthline.com/health/pain.
- “What Is Chronic Pain Syndrome?” WebMD, last accessed August 23, 2021, https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/chronic-pain-syndrome-overview.
- “Everything You Need to Know About Pain.”
- “Chronic pain,” Cleveland Clinic, last accessed August 23, 2021, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4798-chronic-pain.
- “What Is Chronic Pain Syndrome?”
- “Using the pain scale,” Specialists Hospital Shreveport, last accessed August 23, 2021, https://specialistshospitalshreveport.com/patient-resources/using-the-pain-scale/.
- “Treating pain: When is an opioid the right choice?” Mayo Clinic, last accessed August 23, 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/chronic-pain-medication-decisions/art-20360371.
- “Treating pain: When is an opioid the right choice?”