Managing Pain with Medications

Tips for Managing Pain with MedicationsMost arthritics need to control their symptoms with medications. Many natural supplements are also available, but you should always speak to your medical doctor, pharmacist, and/or naturopathic doctor before combining any medications and/or natural supplements as negative interactions are possible.

Pain relievers (NSAIDs)

Motrin, Advil, Aleve, Aspirin, Entrophen and Anacin are common over-the-counter medications used to treat the intermittent pain symptoms associated with arthritis. This group of medications is classified as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and they do not prevent damage to the joints caused by inflammation nor do they affect the disease process. They do relieve pain. At prescription-level doses, they can reduce inflammation. Depending where you live, you may recognize prescription NSAIDs by the names Naproxen Sodium or Celebrex, as examples.

Topical arthritis medications (NSAIDs)

Topical medications such as Voltaren Emulgel, are also NSAIDs and are available over the counter without a prescription. They help to relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation.

Medication dosage

Studies recommend that low doses of NSAIDs (Motrin, Advil, Aleve, Aspirin, Entrophen and Anacin) should only be used to manage pain in individuals with arthritis with low cardiovascular risk, and for the shortest time possible. NSAIDs also carry the risk of stomach ulcers and bleeding.

Many of the over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as Aleve, also cause nausea, decreased appetite, and stomach pain with long term use. Your family doctor can prescribe medications, such as
Prevacid, Losec, Pantoprazole, Pantoloc or Tecta, to protect the stomach lining. These medications can be taken in conjunction with pain-relieving NSAIDs. Celecoxib is a medication often prescribed to relieve pain, control symptoms of arthritis, and protect the stomach from long-term use of arthritic medications


Tylenol (Acetaminophen) is the most common choice for treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms. It is also considered the safest choice of pain reliever and is the easiest on the stomach. However, high doses of Tylenol are also known to be toxic to the liver.

It should be noted that these are not the only medications used with people with arthritis. Some forms of arthritis require medications called, biologics, such as Humira and Enbrel.

In any case, any time you are using any kind of medication, you need to ensure that you are under the care of a physician who can monitor for adverse reactions or conditions. These kinds of medications (biologics) are used with the intentions of slowing down the disease process.

Facts about medications and natural supplements that you need to consider:

* Natural supplements can increase or decrease the effects of current medications you are taking, both for arthritis and other health conditions.
* All natural supplements do not work the same for everyone.
* Increasing the dosage of pain medication does not relieve pain any better or any faster.
* Not all natural supplements are FDA approved.
* Before taking any natural supplement, discuss possible interactions with other medications with your doctor or pharmacist.
* Celebrex is currently approved by the FDA for use to treat pain associated with arthritis. There are on-going studies among researchers who do not agree whether or not Celebrex plays a role in heart disease, including heart attack.
* Glucosamine, a natural supplement, is marketed to slow down the deterioration of cartilage, relieve pain and improve joint mobility in individuals with osteoarthritis.
* Glucosamine is considered safe to take in combination with Tylenol and other over-the-counter pain relievers, but it is always recommended that you speak to your physician or pharmacist before combining medications and natural supplements.
* Glucosamine can lower blood pressure and therefore it affects blood pressure medications.
* There is on-going research to see if Glucosamine and Tylenol counteract the benefits of one another.
* DO NOT take glucosamine if you are allergic to shellfish, have glaucoma (may increase pressure in the eye) or are on blood thinners. It can cause bleeding.
* SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine) is an effective natural supplement that may provide relief for arthritis pain and inflammation.
* DO NOT take SAM-e if you are on antidepressants or MAO inhibitors (a more specific type of anti-depressive medication).
* Boswellia Serrate (Indian frankincense) is also a natural supplement to relieve arthritic pain and inflammation. High doses over a long period of time may lead to liver problems.

As you can see from the examples above, the safe usage of natural supplements requires a thorough knowledge of all the possible interactions with medications. Reading the label is not enough. Taking advice from a friend who says, “I take —– and it works great for me” is not enough. You must discuss it with a professional, your family doctor or your pharmacist! Stay safe!