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Medication Management

Various classes of medications can be utilized to provide pain relief. They act on receptors in your tissues, peripheral nerves, spinal cord, and brain to decrease the perceived intensity of pain signals. Different classes of medications include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (i.e. ibuprofen)
  • Acetaminophen
  • Nerve pain medications (i.e. gabapentin, Cymbalta)
  • Topical patches/creams (i.e. Lidoderm patches)
  • Opioids (i.e. morphine) — often referred to as narcotics or pain killers

With chronic pain conditions, these medications are best used in combination rather than solely relying on one class alone for pain relief. This is especially true in regard to opioids. The benefit of using multiple medications at once (“multimodal analgesia”) is that the benefits of each medication combine to have the greatest outcome, but at doses low enough so side-effects for each drug are minimized.

Common conditions where medications are used for pain relief include chronic spine pain, chronic pain from nerve injury, or cancer pain. Sometimes physicians may inadequately treat chronic pain conditions because of falsely perceived notions regarding these medications, especially opioids. Responsible management of these medications is also crucial to avoid side-effects. Medications are especially effective for chronic pain conditions when used as one part of a multi-pronged, balanced plan for management of your pain.

How It Works

The mechanism of action for these drugs varies widely depending on the class of drug. For more detail regarding the mechanism of action of these drugs, please ask your Center for Pain Management physician.


Each medication class has its own set of side effects. Your pain medicine physician has significant expertise in the management of these medications. The goal in their use is to acquire adequate control of your pain at the lowest effective dose. Your physician will discuss each medication, including benefits and risks, before starting treatment, and will answer your questions in detail regarding any concerns you may have.