FAQs on Pain Medication Management

Chronic pain is a serious problem. Medication pain management involves the use of certain medicines to control chronic pain conditions. Chronic pain is defined as pain that last for six months or more. Pain management involves working with the patient to develop an effective treatment pain that safely alleviates pain.

How common is chronic pain?

According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, chronic pain affects more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, which is around 4% of the general population. Of these people, 15% have headache or migraine pain, 15% have neck pain, 4% have facial pain, and 28% have back pain. These statistics are from the National Institutes of Health.

What are some common causes of chronic pain?

Many conditions cause chronic pain. These include:

  • Migraine headaches
  • Cluster headaches
  • Tension-type headaches
  • Tendinitis
  • Arthritis
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Failed back surgery syndrome
  • Spinal stenosis

How is pain medication used to provide pain relief with chronic conditions?

The aim of pain medication management is to relieve chronic pain so the patient can participate in usual daily activities and enjoy improved quality of life. While taking medications, a person must first come to the pain specialist’s office for a consultation. If you are a candidate for pain management with medications, the doctor will discuss your treatment plan.

What medications are used to manage chronic pain?

The pain specialist may prescribe one medicine for your condition, or he may choose to use a combination of medications, along with interventional measures. Pain medication options include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – These are over-the-counter or prescription strength.
  • Neurogenic modifying agents – Used for nerve pain associated with radiculopathy, sciatica, and spinal stenosis, these include Neurontin and Lyrica.
  • Antidepressants – Tricyclic antidepressants interfere with pain signals and change how the brain perceives pain. These include nortriptyline and amitriptyline.
  • Muscle relaxants – For back pain muscle spasms, Robaxin, Flexiril, and Baclofen may help.
  • Topical agents – Nerve pain and skin soreness is often treated with topical agents. These include Lidoderm patch (lidocaine) and capsaicin for chronic back pain, osteoarthritis, and neuropathic pain.
  • Anticonvulsants – Pregabalin, Topamax, and Gabapentin are used to treat nerve-related pain.
  • Opioids – Short-term pain relief medicines include hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, and tramadol.

What happens at the first pain medication management appointment?

When you come to the pain management specialist’s office, the doctor will review your medical history, ask questions about your pain, and conduct a physical examination. Pain medications are only part of the treatment, so the doctor will discuss interventional procedures, such as epidural steroid injections, medial branch blocks, and radiofrequency ablation. Physical therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care are all measures used by pain management specialists as part of the patient’s treatment plan.

What are the benefits of taking pain medicines for chronic pain?

Under the careful supervision of a pain management specialist, medications can effectively reduce the duration and intensity of chronic pain. In addition, these drugs help with rest and sleep, improve mood, and enhance mobility. Overall, pain medication management helps improve quality of life.

Does pain medication management work?

In a study to assess long-term effectiveness for pain management, 77% of treated patients lived normal lives without medication. However, almost 1/4th of patients required some form of medicine to help with the pain. In another study, pain rehabilitation was found to have better outcomes when medications were used. The researchers found that pain management was significantly more cost-effective than surgery.


American Chronic Pain Association (2014). ACPA resource guide to chronic pain medication and treatment. Retrieved from: http://www.theacpa.org/uploads/documents/ACPA_Resource_Guide_2014_FINAL%20(2).pdf

Roberts AH & Reinhardt L. The behavioral management of chronic pain: Long-term follow-up with comparison groups. Pain, 8(2), 151-162.

Turk D (2002). Clinical Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Treatments for Patients with Chronic Pain. Clinical Journal of Pain, 18(6), 355-365.