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Body Pain Treatment

Pain Medication

What are pain medications?

Pain medications or analgesics are a group of medication that manages or relieves pain. Such pain or physical discomforts can be either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). According to clinical data, about 30% of the global population suffers from various types of pain. It indicates the worldwide demand for pain medications estimated in 2020 at USD 72,065.3 Million.

A rise in these statistical data concurrently increases the health risks associated with pain medication. Therefore, taking these powerful pain relievers with utmost caution and under proper medical supervision is essential.


What are the types of pain medications?

There are different types of pain medications available in the market. Before we categorize, it is essential to know the following:
  • Each drug is associated with either a benefit or side effects.
  • Distinct pain symptoms respond differently to different painkillers.
  • Moreover, other patients might react distinctly to the wide range of pain treatments available.
Based on their availability, pain medications can be divided into the following:

Over-the-counter pain medications

Over-the-counter or OTC are common painkiller medicines readily available without a valid prescription.
  • Acetaminophen
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Acetaminophen : It is a group of medicine that works on the brain and changes pain perceptions. Acetaminophen is both an analgesic and antipyretic (reduces fever). Some of them are Tylenol, Paracetamol, etc.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) : This group of medicine works by lowering the hormone-like chemical prostaglandins that irritate the nerve endings, inflicting pain and inflammation. NSAIDs reduce pain, fever, and inflammation (irritation, redness, or swelling). NSAIDs in lower dose is the strongest over-the-counter painkiller. Some examples include Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Aspirin, etc.

Some other types include topical pain relievers. These are treatments applied directly to the skin to relieve pain. Topical pain relievers can be either Acetaminophen or NSAIDs and are available as gels and creams. Some of them are Capsaicin cream, Diclofenac gel, etc.

Combinations are a type of pain reliever containing Acetaminophen and NSAIDs; some might even have caffeine. Pain away pills or relievers such as Advil Dual Action is a combination of drugs.

Prescription pain medications

This type of pain medication is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Prescription medications are comparatively more powerful analgesics than OTC medications. A valid prescription from a medical professional is required to access it.

A few prescription pain relievers are mentioned below:
  • Corticosteroids
  • Opioids
  • NSAIDs in higher prescription dose
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • Prescription Topica
  • Muscle relaxers

Corticosteroids : These are strong medicines that treat inflammation by restricting the chemicals responsible for inflammation and irritation. Corticosteroids reduce swelling, redness, and other symptoms. It is a potent treatment for asthma, arthritis, and allergies. A few such drugs are prednisolone, methylprednisolone, etc.

Opioids : These are narcotic prescription medications that work on the brain's pain receptors and alter pain perceptions. The therapeutical efficacy manages severe chronic pain conditions. It is also effective for post-surgical acute pain. Examples include Tapentadol, Codeine, Hydrocodone, etc.

NSAIDs : Higher doses of NSAIDs are available only on producing a valid prescription. Such medicines provide better efficacy than OTC NSAIDs. However, patients with stomach, liver, hypertension, and asthma should avoid it. Examples include meloxicam, celecoxib, etc.

Anticonvulsants or Anti-epileptic : These medicines are primarily prescribed for seizures or epilepsy. They also help to manage severe pain. Examples Gabapentin, Pregabalin, etc.

Antidepressants : These drugs alter the neurotransmitters or brain chemicals and treat emotional changes and pain. It is one of the most prescribed treatments for chronic pain (neuropathic or nerve pain) when the patient is unresponsive to other pain treatments. For example, citalopram, doxepin, duloxetine, etc.

Prescription Topical : Lidocaine patches are the topical treatment for pain relief available only with a medical prescription.

Muscle relaxers : Prescription muscle relaxers such as Carisoprodol (Pain O Soma) help to relieve acute pain conditions. Muscle relaxers work on the Central nervous system and block the pain sensation from reaching the receptors.

Other medications

These medications can be effective in relieving pain as well.
  • Supplements such as glucosamine, omega-3 fatty acids, etc., can help relieve chronic pain.
  • Medicinal Cannabis is also effective in relieving chronic discomforts such as neuropathic pain. However, such medicine should be taken under the strict supervision of a medical practitioner.
  • Caffeine can be taken along with primary painkillers to provide effective results.


What do OTC pain relievers treat?

OTC medicines can provide relief from various mild to moderate pain conditions. Some of them are mentioned below:
  • Headache
  • Toothache
  • Cold or Flu
  • Minor surgeries
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Muscle pain or strains

What do prescription painkillers treat?

Prescription pain relievers help to treat pain caused due to the following conditions:
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Migraine
  • Neuropathic pain and diabetic neuropathic pain
  • Postoperative pain
  • Severe arthritis pain
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Cancer
  • Broken bones or injuries
  • Burns

Which is the strongest pain medication?

Medicines that provide the most effective treatment can be termed the most potent pain reliever.

The pain medication chart below provides brief information on the strongest painkiller.

Pain medication list strongest to weakest
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Muscle relaxer
Other Topical Treatment Agents

Our pharmacy offers a wide range of opioids and muscle relaxants. Learn about Remedy counter and the analgesics available on our website, which are FDA-approved and clinically proven to help manage body pain within 30 minutes.


What are the potential risks of OTC pain relievers?

OTC pain medications are relatively safe. However, these medicines can still cause risks and unwanted side effects and affect the efficacy of other medications. A pharmacist might assist you with the safe consumption of such drugs.

Consumption of such medicines should be avoided if you have a liver or kidney disease history.

Acetaminophen risks : Taking this medicine over 3000 mg a day can cause liver complications. Moreover, consuming alcohol can further increase the risk of liver issues.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs risks : Long-term consumption of such medicine is not recommended. Consultation is required in the consumption of such medications over 10 days. NSAIDs can increase the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and other conditions such as bleeding, upset stomach, or rashes.

What are the potential risks of prescription pain relievers?
Along with being the most effective treatment, prescription medications also have higher side effects and dependence risks. Therefore, taking these medications under the strict supervision of a health expert is necessary.
Medicine Complication Management
Corticosteroids Mood changes, Weak immune system, Trouble sleeping, high sugar levels, etc. It is recommended to start with the lowest dose possible and for the shortest duration to minimize the side effects.
Opioids Drowsiness, Constipation, Nausea, Breathing problems, Addiction, etc. It should be taken for chronic pain when the first line of treatment is unresponsive and under strict prescription dose and duration.
NSAIDs (higher dose) Heart attack, strokes, Ulcers, bleeding, kidney disease, etc. It should be taken with food and as per the prescribed instructions.
Anticonvulsan Drowsiness, dizziness, Fatigue, Nausea, etc. Start with a lower anticonvulsant dose and gradually increase it. Abrupt stopping should be avoided as well.
Antidepressant Fatigue, headache, Erectile Dysfunction, blurry vision, etc. The Antidepressants pills should be administered at a lower dose than their prescription strength for depression. The dose of the medication can then be gradually increased depending on the condition and severity of the pain.
Topical Stinging, irritation, burning, redness, dryness, etc. Clean and sanitize the affected area and apply as directed by a health expert.
Muscle relaxer Drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, liver issues, etc. It should be taken strictly under prescription instructions, and informing the doctor about underlying health conditions and undergoing treatment is mandatory.


Tips for safely using pain medicines

  • Inform your doctor about your condition and the medicines you take, both OTC and prescription drugs.
  • Before taking any medication, ensure you understand the proper use of the treatment.
  • Take pain medicine as directed by a healthcare professional.
  • In case of any side effects or efficacy issues, talk to your doctor.
  • Pain medications, specially prescribed drugs, should not be shared with other individuals.
  • Do not overdose or take medicines with addictive substances or alcohol.
  • Do not abruptly quit taking pain relievers. Talk to your doctor for proper instructions.
  • Children under 18 years and adults above 60 should take pain medication after consulting a doctor.
  • Keep your medicines away from the reach of pets and children.
  • Dispose of the pain medicines properly.
When should I see my doctor?
  • Visit a doctor when your acute pain condition persists.
  • If you are unable to get relief from OTC medicines.
  • Consult a doctor if you are unresponsive to your pain medicine or experience any alarming side effects.
  • In case of any signs of habit formation, get immediate medical consultation.
Medically reviewed by:
Last reviewed: 17th April 2023

Frequently Asked Questions

Needs Answer? Find them here

  • What is the most common pain medication?

    Acetaminophen is the most commonly used painkiller used as the first line of treatment for mild to moderate pain.

  • What is the best pain medication for chronic pain?

    Opioid analgesics such as Tapentadol are potent pain medications for chronic or long-term discomfort.

  • Are pain medications safe during pregnancy?

    Pain medications are often prescribed for pregnant women. However, such treatments should be taken strictly under the supervision of a gynecologist.

  • How long can you take painkillers?

    Pain medications should be taken as directed by your health expert. Taking pain medications over the prescribed duration and OTC medications over 10 days can result in side effects, addiction, or drug tolerance.

  • Is it safe to take painkillers every day?

    Different pain medications vary in their duration of action. Your doctor or pharmacist (for OTC medicine) might suggest the proper dosing information based on the condition's efficacy, duration, and severity.

  • What pain medication is safe for the liver?

    Acetaminophen pain medications in lower doses are comparatively safe for liver disease patients. However, strict consultation is necessary before consumption.

  • What pain medication is safe for kidneys?

    Using Acetaminophen medications occasionally has less impact on the kidney. However, stronger medications might require dosage adjustment based on the pain severity.

  • What pain medication is safe for heart patients?

    Medications such as Acetaminophen have lower risks of health diseases. However, prior consultation from a health expert is mandatory in case of severe pain symptoms.

  • What is the best pain medication for the elderly?

    According to the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), Acetaminophen pain medication is the first line of treatment for mild to moderate pain conditions in the elderly.

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