Pain Medicine: Care Instructions

Pain can keep you from doing the things you want to do. Medicine may help you feel better. There are many kinds of pain medicine. One type you can buy over the counter is acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Other medicines help both pain and swelling. These are called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve). All of these drugs can cause side effects. Take them just as the package label tells you to. The most common side effects are stomach upset, heartburn, and nausea. Taking these drugs with food may help.

If you take NSAIDs often, you could get stomach ulcers or kidney problems. This can also happen if you take them for a long time. NSAIDs rarely cause a bad allergic reaction.

Many pain medicines need to be prescribed by a doctor. Some of these drugs, called opiates, can be addicting. Examples are hydrocodone, morphine, fentanyl, and codeine. They often can be used safely if you are under a doctor’s care.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. If you take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Be careful when taking over-the-counter cold or flu medicines and Tylenol at the same time. Many of these medicines contain acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Read the labels to make sure that you are not taking more than the recommended dose. Too much Tylenol can be harmful.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to.
  • Do not drink alcohol and take pain medicine at the same time.
  • If your pain pills make you constipated:
    • Talk to your doctor about a laxative.
    • Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. Drink water, fruit juice, or other drinks that do not contain caffeine or alcohol. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • Take fiber, such as Citrucel or Metamucil, daily if needed. Read and follow all instructions on the label. If you take pain medicine for more than a few days, talk to your doctor before you take fiber.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your pain medicine is not easing your pain.
  • You have stomach pain, an upset stomach, or heartburn that lasts or comes back.
  • You can’t sleep because of the pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by Neuromuscular Spine & Joint Center. This care instruction is for use with your licensed healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Kopp Medical LLC, DBA Neurmomuscular Spine & Joint Center disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.