Terms to Know
Analgesics are pain-relieving drugs. They are also known as painkillers. Common analgesics are acetaminophen and opioids.
Also known as anti-epileptics, anti-convulsants are typically used to manage epileptic seizures. But they are also known to relieve the pain and anxiety associated with other chronic conditions, such as fibromyalgia. Research suggests that anti-convulsants decrease excess pain signals sent by damaged nerves, thus reducing the pain you feel.
Anti-depressants are typically used to relieve the symptoms of depression. These drugs are also used to treat pain associated with musculoskeletal disorders, such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and spondylosis. They help the body release endorphins, or natural pain killers. Since pain and depression often go hand in hand, anti-depressants can be especially effective.
COX-2 inhibitors are a newer class of prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that reduce pain and inflammation but with a lower risk of gastrointestinal side effects associated with traditional NSAIDs.
Disease Modifying Anti-rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)
Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs may help slow or stop destructive changes in joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Muscle relaxants are commonly used to reduce the painful symptoms associated with muscle spasms. These medications help prevent further spasms and may also improve sleep quality.
A neuropathic agent is any medication that acts on neuropathic pain. In other words, neuropathic agents will help treat your nerve-related pain. Tricyclic anti-depressants are a commonly-prescribed neuropathic agent.
Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are drugs that relieve both pain and inflammation. They are available in over-the-counter and prescription forms.
Opioids, also called narcotics, are extremely potent prescription analgesics. They should be taken only if you have severe chronic pain. These drugs work by essentially decreasing your perception of, and therefore your reaction to, pain.
Over-the-counter medications may be purchased by a patient without a prescription.
Prescription medications may be obtained only with the documented consent and direction of a doctor.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Among the newest types of anti-depressants, SSRIs boost your mood by allowing more serotonin to travel from neuron to neuron. More serotonin means less pain perception. SSRIs are very similar to serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)—the main difference being that SNRIs deal with serotonin and norepinephrine.
Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors
SNRIs are a class of anti-depressants that increase serotonin and norepinephrine by stopping their reuptake (reabsorption) into brain cells. Increased levels of these chemicals help maintain mental balance and reduce the amount of pain you feel.
Side effects are potential adverse effects that are caused by a medication.
Topical medications are pain relievers that are applied to the skin as a cream, ointment, gel, spray, or patch.
Tricyclic Anti-Depressants (TCAs)
Tricyclic anti-depressants (TCAs) are anti-depressants that are considered the most effective for back pain. TCAs help regain balance by raising the levels of calming neurotransmitters—namely serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine—in your brain. This helps reduce your perception of pain.