Pain management

Some common pain medications are:


Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) helps relieve pain. Many other over-the-counter (OTC) products contain acetaminophen. Taking too much can be dangerous, so check the labels of other OTC drug products. The usual upper limit is 4 grams (4,000 mg) per day, or 3 grams (3,000 mg) for people over age 65.

Side effects are rare, but liver damage can occur at excessive doses.

Take this medicine with a full glass of water.

Tell your doctor if you:

  • drink alcohol,
  • take this medicine more than directed,
  • are taking other medications, including OTC products,
  • have had liver disease.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help relieve pain, swelling, stiffness, and inflammation. NSAIDs are available both by prescription and over the counter. Your doctor may ask you to take NSAIDs every day or just when you need them.

Common NSAIDs: ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin, Advil), naproxen (e.g. Aleve), diclofenac, Celebrex.

Take this medicine:

  • with a full glass of water,
  • with food, milk, and/or an antacid to reduce stomach discomfort,

NSAIDs side effects include stomach ache, diarrhea, dizziness, or headache.

Tell your doctor if you:

  • have these or other side effects,
  • have heart, kidney, or stomach problems, or a history of bleeding,
  • take other medications, including over-the-counter products, or drink alcohol,
  • have had reactions to other drugs.


Opioids are sometimes used in combination with other drugs to relieve pain. Opioids can be addictive, so carefully follow you doctor’s directions. These drugs may cause drowsiness so do not drive when taking them.

Some common products: codeine (e.g. Tylenol #3), tramadol (e.g. Ultracet), oxycodone (e.g. Percocet), and hydrocodone (e.g. Vicodin).

Side effects may include constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, difficulty urinating, rash, dry mouth.

Take this medicine with a full glass of water. To reduce constipation, eat fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables, beans, and whole grains. A stool softener may help as well.

Tell your doctor if you:

  • have side effects such as mental changes or difficulty breathing,
  • are allergic to any drugs,
  • are taking other medications or alcohol.