Almost every home in Australia has a cupboard or drawer containing medicines that offer pain relief. You may reach for the paracetamol or ibuprofen for aches, pains, and strains without so much as a second thought.
And for most acute (short-lasting) pain, a dose or two of a simple analgesic is appropriate.
But when pain persists – what then? When should you see your doctor? How will they approach your pain management? Will they just send you away with a prescription for stronger and stronger pain relievers?
Our scientific understanding of pain — and optimal pain management — has evolved. Doctors are now more wary of the overuse of strong pain relievers like opioids. And pain researchers have found alternative ways to manage pain, particularly chronic pain.
If you’re interested in managing migraine pain, you can read this article.
Pain researchers tell us that there are two distinct types of pain:
Pain can also be divided into two categories, depending on how long you’ve had pain.
It’s tempting to self-manage your pain, given that we have such easy access to pain relief. But it’s best to get to the bottom of your pain condition, especially if it:
Make an appointment with a doctor to discuss your pain. Living with chronic pain can be challenging. InstantScripts® GPs can help navigate your pain management options and help discover if there’s a reason for your ongoing pain.
Initially, your doctor will try to determine what is causing your pain. Your pain could be caused by infection or tissue damage. Your doctor may also want to find out if the pain is caused by a more serious illness, such as cancer.
There may not be an obvious underlying cause. Or you may already know the underlying cause and be receiving treatment.
In either case, your doctor will want to find out how much your pain is limiting you in your daily life. They may ask questions about your:
This will help you and your doctor work out what pain management strategy will best suit you. Chronic pain management usually involves both drug and non-drug strategies to give you the best outcome.
Pain researchers now know that people with chronic pain need a treatment “toolbox”. This can be made up of a variety of practices proven to help with pain management. These include:
Paracetamol and some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are available to buy without a doctor’s prescription. These are often called simple analgesics and can help with many types of pain.
Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about the best options before buying any over-the-counter medicines. This is particularly important if you have any other medical conditions, such as stomach, kidney, liver or heart problems.
You should also speak with your doctor if you take these medicines regularly. There may be better options that will help you improve your pain management.
Stronger pain relief is available with a prescription. There are several types of medicines that can help relieve pain.
Opioids are often used to relieve severe acute pain or cancer pain. But there’s little evidence supporting use for chronic pain that is not caused by cancer, particularly in the long term.
What’s more, research shows that the longer you take opioids the greater the risk of experiencing negative consequences.
If you and your GP decide a trial of opioids is appropriate, you need to know that treatment will need to be stopped at some stage. Opioids should not be used over the long term.
Should I take this medicine at regular intervals or only when I feel pain?
At InstantScripts, we offer telehealth consultations with our Australian RACGP-qualified doctors. If you can’t get to your doctor to discuss your pain management, we’re always here to help.