Pain Management Medication: Types and Side Effects


Pain medications are drugs used to relieve discomfort associated with diseases, injury, or surgery. Pain management can be simple or complex, depending on the cause of pain. When it comes to chronic pain, medications play a crucial role. There are numerous medications that can help you manage pain. However, every patient with pain is different and responds to medications differently. Different types of pain drugs act through different physiological mechanisms.

Types of pain medication

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are non-opioid analgesics often used for mild to moderate chronic pain. These drugs act on substances in the body that can cause inflammation, pain, and fever. Some examples of NSAIDs used for chronic pain are ibuprofen, naproxen, and meloxicam. Many NSAIDs are available over-the-counter.

Acetaminophen works on the parts of the brain that receive the pain messages. It increases the body’s pain threshold, but it has little effects on inflammation. Acetaminophen is also available for purchase without a prescription.

  • Opioids

Opioids, also known as narcotic analgesics, are used for moderate to severe chronic pain, especially for cancer pain, or as post-surgical acute pain medication. Opioids often modify pain messages in the brain. Some examples of opioids are ​oxycodone and fentanyl.

  • Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are used to treat allergies, asthma and arthritis. When used to control pain, they are generally given in the form of pills or injections that target a certain joint. Examples include prednisone, prednisolone, and methylprednisolone.

  • Antidepressants

Antidepressants can effectively treat certain types of chronic pain or emotional conditions by adjusting levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) such as amitriptyline, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as duloxetine, and some others such as nefazodone are commonly used to treat both chronic pain syndromes and nerve pain.

  • Anticonvulsant

Anticonvulsant drugs are usually used to control seizure disorders and also used as pain medication. They can relieve the pain of neuropathies by inhibiting certain types of nerve transmissions. Examples of anticonvulsants commonly include gabapentin and pregabalin.

  • Anti-anxiety drugs

Anti-anxiety drugs work on pain by reducing anxiety, relaxing muscles, or helping patients cope with discomfort. For example, benzodiazepines act as muscle relaxants and are sometimes used as pain relievers.

  • Muscle relaxants

Muscle relaxants are usually used to treat back pain and other types of pain. Common muscle relaxants include baclofen, carisoprodol, cyclobenzaprine, chlorzoxazone, dantrolene, methocarbamol, metaxalone and orphenadrine.

Side effects

  • NSAIDs

NSAIDs can cause stomach ulcers and bleeding have. They can also cause kidney problems. Some types of NSAIDs, such as the selective COX-2 inhibitors, may increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.

  • Acetaminophen

Most acetaminophens have few side effects. But the drug can cause liver damage, especially when taken too much or taken with alcohol.

  • Opioids

Opioids commonly cause nausea, drowsiness, constipation, sexual dysfunction and respiratory depression. However, most of the side effects usually disappear with continued use. Besides, opioid use may lead to addiction or dependence.

  • Corticosteroids

In general, short-term or low-dose corticosteroid use causes few side effects. But long-term use may lead to severe side effects, including:

Weight gain



Trouble sleeping

Weakened immune system

Adrenal insufficiency


Bone death

Damage to local tissues

Cataracts and glaucoma

Elevated blood pressure and blood sugar

  • Antidepressants

In general, antidepressants have fewer long-term side effects than other pain medicines. The most common side effects with antidepressants include:

Dry mouth

Blurry vision



Difficulty urinating





  • Anticonvulsants

In general, anticonvulsants are well tolerated. The side effects of anticonvulsants used for pain management commonly disappear over time. The most common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, nausea and swelling of the lower extremities.

  • Anti-anxiety agents

Anti-anxiety drugs may cause sedation, particularly when combined with certain other medications or alcohol. Other possible side effects include psychological changes, headache, nausea, visual problems, restlessness, nightmares, chest pain and heart pounding.

  • Muscle relaxants

The main side effect of muscle relaxants is drowsiness. In addition, carisoprodol use may lead to dependence because in a body it is converted into a drug similar to barbiturates. Cyclobenzaprine can cause dry mouth, constipation, confusion, and loss of balance. Methocarbamol may turn the color of urine to green, brown, or black. Metaxalone and chlorzoxazone may cause liver problems.

Keywords: pain management medication.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.