Pain relievers are medicines that reduce or relieve headaches, sore muscles, arthritis, or other aches and pains. There are many different pain medicines, and each one has advantages and risks. Some types of pain respond better to certain medicines than others. Each person may also have a slightly different response to a pain reliever.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are good for many types of pain. There are two main types of OTC pain medicines: acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are examples of OTC NSAIDs.
If OTC medicines don't relieve your pain, your doctor may prescribe something stronger. Many NSAIDs are also available at higher prescription doses. The most powerful pain relievers are narcotics. They are very effective, but they can sometimes have serious side effects. Because of the risks, you must use them only under a doctor's supervision.
There are many things you can do to help ease pain. Pain relievers are just one part of a pain treatment plan.
- Could Prescribed NSAID Painkillers Raise Heart Failure Risk? (09/28/2016, HealthDay)
- Countless Opioid Pills Unused by Dental-Surgery Patients (09/27/2016, HealthDay)
- Opioid Epidemic Costs U.S. $78.5 Billion Annually: CDC (09/21/2016, HealthDay)
- More News on Pain Relievers
- Analgesic Nephropathy (Painkillers and the Kidneys) (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
- Aspirin Desensitization (American Rhinologic Society)
- Careful: Acetaminophen in Pain Relief Medicines Can Cause Liver Damage (Food and Drug Administration)
- Health Hints: Use Caution with Pain Relievers (Food and Drug Administration)
- Narcotic Bowel Syndrome (International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders)
- Pain Control After Surgery: Pain Medicines (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Topical Pain Relievers May Cause Burns (Food and Drug Administration)
- CDC Vital Signs: Opioid Painkiller Prescribing (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- Chronic Pain Medicines (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Cortisone Shots (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Easing Joint Pain: Are NSAIDs Right for You? (Consumers Union of U.S.) - PDF Also in Spanish
- Medicines for Pain: From Osteoarthritis to Muscle Pain (National Center for Farmworker Health, Consumers Union of U.S.) - PDF Also in Spanish
- Nerve Blocks (Radiological Society of North America, American College of Radiology) Also in Spanish
- Pain Control (National Cancer Institute) - PDF
- Prescription Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medicines (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Safe Use, Storage, and Disposal of Opioid Drugs (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Treating Chronic Pain with Opioids: Comparing Effectiveness and Cost (Consumers Union of U.S.) - PDF Also in Spanish
- Treating Pain with Opioids (National Center for Farmworker Health, Consumers Union of U.S.) - PDF Also in Spanish
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: PENTAZOCINE VERSUS PENTAZOCINE WITH RECTAL DICLOFENAC FOR POSTOPERATIVE PAIN RELIEF...
- Article: Avoiding Opioid Analgesics for Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain.
- Article: Prescription of Long-Acting Opioids and Mortality in Patients With Chronic...
- Pain Relievers -- see more articles
- Non-narcotic pain relievers -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Acetaminophen and Children: Why Dosage Matters (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Fentanyl Patch Can Be Deadly to Children (Food and Drug Administration)
- How Do Pain Relievers Work? (For Kids) (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
- Know Concentration Before Giving Acetaminophen to Infants (Food and Drug Administration)
- Parents: Acetaminophen in Pain Relief Medicines Can Cause Liver Damage (Food and Drug Administration)
- Post-Surgery Codeine Puts Kids at Risk (Food and Drug Administration)