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Persistent Pain and Pain Medication

Do medications work for Persistent (Chronic) pain?

Medications used for persistent pain are often the same types of medications used in acute pain. In acute pain they work well, but evidence shows us that they do not work as well in persistent pain. In fact, over time, they become less effective in many cases.

The aim, when prescribing pain medication to people with persistent pain is not to make you ‘pain free’ but, along with other strategies, to help reduce the intensity of your pain. This is to enable you to engage better with daily living activities and focus on improving your quality of life.

At your initial assessment in the Persistent Pain Service, we will review your current medication and ask for your input regarding the benefits and side effects you may experience. We will also explain to you how the medication should work and suggest any changes that may lead to helping you function better. These medication changes will be discussed within the context of other strategies that you may incorporate to help you to manage your pain better.

What is your role in managing your medications?

Your role in managing your medication is very important. Knowing what you are taking and the effect it has on you, will determine whether it is the right medication for you. Each individual will have different effects from a medication and only you can weigh up the benefits and the side effects of the medication you take for your pain. If your pain medications are not helping you to function better, we can offer advice regarding other options including supporting you to reduce, or even stop your medications if needed.

Key points to taking medication for pain: 

  • Take it regularly – if you wait until your pain increases before taking your medication, it will not be as effective. Taking a small amount regularly is much better than taking a larger dose infrequently.
  • The lowest effective dose of your medication should be the goal. Increasing medication may not lower your pain intensity but may increase your side effects and make it more difficult to function.
  • Weigh up the benefits and side effects you experience with your medication- does it help you function better?

What about addiction?

It is uncommon for people to experience addiction when taking pain medications for pain. However, this does not mean that you will not develop a physical dependence when your body becomes tolerant to the pain medication. Reducing or stopping medication when you are physically dependent on it means that you should always reduce gradually, under the supervision of a specialist, to reduce the likelihood of withdrawal symptoms.

Please follow this link to our Analgesic Awareness page 

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