Pain Medicine: Care Instructions

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Your 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 non-steroidal 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. Examples are opioids, such as hydrocodone, morphine, fentanyl, and codeine. They often can be used safely if you are under a doctor's care. But even when used the right way, you can develop tolerance. This means that you need to take more medicine to get the same pain relief. Also, there is a risk of overdose, dependency, or addiction when you take this medicine.

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 or nurse call line 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?

  • 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 18. 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 fibre, such as Benefibre 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 fibre.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line 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 or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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