Over-the-Counter Remedies for People with Chronic Pain

Author: Brian Jones, Clinical Pharmacist

Over-the-counter remedies for chronic pain

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who live with chronic pain, you know how challenging it can be to find relief. With Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions (HPS) you’re not alone in managing your pain and your medication therapy. HPS wants to help you live easier, healthier and happier with these over-the-counter remedies for chronic pain.

Over-the-Counter Pain Reliever Medications

The two most common types over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medications are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen.

Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen, Naproxen and aspirin. You may also know these medications by recognizable brand names such as Advil®, Motrin®, Aleve® and Bayer®. NSAIDs provide effective pain relief by treating inflammation. While these medications are non-habit forming, it’s important to tell your doctor and your HPS pharmacist if you’re taking regular OTC medications to manage your pain. Taking NSAIDs in high doses or for too long can cause serious side effects, including kidney damage and stomach ulcers.

Acetaminophen, often known by the Tylenol® brand name, affects the part of your brain that controls pain messages. Unlike NSAIDs, acetaminophen will not treat inflammation. However, acetaminophen medications are not as hard on your stomach. This makes it a good option to help people find pain relief.

Always follow the instructions listed on the medication label. While these medications all provide pain relief, they work differently in your body. It’s important to compare OTC pain relief medications and talk to your pharmacist about the best option to help you manage pain. If you have questions about using OTC medications with your prescriptions, contact a clinical pharmacist.

Applying Ice and Heat Therapy

Applying ice and heat therapy can bring pain relief for many different conditions, including arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about which temperature to use for your pain relief. In general, if your pain is sharp and inflamed, use ice. If sore, stiff muscles are causing you discomfort, use heat. Ice packs and cool temperatures numb your pain and reduce inflammation. Heat therapy helps your muscles relax and sooths painful joints. Gel packs, ice packs and heating pads are all common ways to apply ice and heat therapy. Make sure to wrap the hot or cold pack to protect your skin. The Arthritis Foundation offers more tips about using heat and cold for pain relief. 

Physical Exercise for Pain Relief

Studies show physical exercise is an effective way to significantly reduce pain for most chronic pain patients. Regular exercise can lead to both immediate and long-term pain relief. Yoga, tai chi, walking and swimming can be good exercise options because they’re all low-impact workouts that require you to focus on your breathing. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new workout or making changes to your exercise routine. Regular exercise can also help people relax and sleep better, which is important for health and pain management.

Sleep and Relaxation

Sleep and relaxation are important for chronic pain management and your overall health. When you’re relaxed and well rested, it can help you feel better and manage chronic pain. Sleep is an effective way to manage stress, reduce inflammation and allow your body time to heal and repair itself. Chronic pain may make it harder to rest. Tell your doctor if you’re having trouble sleeping. You can also try various relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, aromatherapy or drawing to help clear your mind and unwind.

Talk to your support system

When you’re having a bad day or if you’re struggling to manage chronic pain, lean on your support system. Tell your friends, family members and caregivers about the pain you’re experiencing and how they can help. Some people find it helpful to share their feelings and frustrations about chronic pain with a counselor. Be sure to tell your doctor and your pharmacist at HPS if you’re struggling to manage chronic pain.

Managing Chronic Pain with Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions

Tell your Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions (HPS) pharmacist if you’re struggling to manage chronic pain. Be sure to provide information about all your over-the-counter medications. HPS provides a whole-health approach to managing complex, chronic conditions. Your support team at HPS can coordinate with your healthcare team to help you manage chronic pain and live easier, healthier and happier.