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 opioids. They are very effective, but they can sometimes have serious side effects. There is also a risk of addiction. 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.
- Opioid Painkillers and Xanax or Valium a Deadly Mix (03/15/2017, HealthDay)
- Kids' OD Risk Rises When Opioids Left Out at Home (02/20/2017, HealthDay)
- Opioids and Alcohol a Dangerous Cocktail (02/08/2017, HealthDay)
- More News on Pain Relievers
- Aspirin Desensitization (American Rhinologic Society)
- Don't Double Up on Acetaminophen (Food and Drug Administration) Also in Spanish
- 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
- Pain Medicines and Kidney Damage (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
- Topical Pain Relievers May Cause Burns (Food and Drug Administration)
- Chronic Pain Medicines (American Academy of Family Physicians) 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
- NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) (American College of Rheumatology)
- 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 Pain with Opioids (National Center for Farmworker Health, Consumers Union of U.S.) - PDF Also in Spanish
- What You Can Expect with a Cortisone Shot (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Effects of single-dose preemptive intravenous ibuprofen on postoperative opioid consumption...
- Article: Monitoring Hospitalized Adult Patients for Opioid-Induced Sedation and Respiratory Depression.
- Article: Multimodal Analgesia for Acute Postoperative and Trauma-Related Pain.
- 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) Also in Spanish
- 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) Also in Spanish
- Acetaminophen dosing for children (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Ibuprofen dosing for children (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Over-the-counter pain relievers (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Pain medications - narcotics (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Taking narcotics for back pain (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish