Pain relievers are medicines that reduce or relieve headaches, sore muscles, arthritis, or other aches and pains. There are many different pain medicines, and each one has advantages and risks. Some types of pain respond better to certain medicines than others. Each person may also have a slightly different response to a pain reliever.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are good for many types of pain. There are two main types of OTC pain medicines: acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are examples of OTC NSAIDs.
If OTC medicines don't relieve your pain, your doctor may prescribe something stronger. Many NSAIDs are also available at higher prescription doses. The most powerful pain relievers are narcotics. They are very effective, but they can sometimes have serious side effects. Because of the risks, you must use them only under a doctor's supervision.
There are many things you can do to help ease pain. Pain relievers are just one part of a pain treatment plan.
- Painkiller Addiction Relapse More Likely for Some (04/22/2016, HealthDay)
- More People Surviving Sudden Liver Failure (04/04/2016, HealthDay)
- FDA Orders Warning Labels on Prescription Narcotic Painkillers (03/22/2016, HealthDay)
- More News on Pain Relievers
- Analgesic Nephropathy (Painkillers and the Kidneys) (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
- Aspirin and NSAIDS (American College of Gastroenterology)
- Aspirin Desensitization (American Rhinologic Society)
- Careful: Acetaminophen in Pain Relief Medicines Can Cause Liver Damage (Food and Drug Administration)
- Health Hints: Use Caution with Pain Relievers (Food and Drug Administration)
- Narcotic Bowel Syndrome (International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders)
- Pain Control After Surgery: Pain Medicines (American Academy of Family Physicians) Available in Spanish
- Topical Pain Relievers May Cause Burns (Food and Drug Administration)
- CDC Vital Signs: Opioid Painkiller Prescribing (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Available in Spanish
- Chronic Pain Medicines (American Academy of Family Physicians) Available in Spanish
- Cortisone Shots (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Easing Joint Pain: Are NSAIDs Right for You? (Consumers Union of U.S.) - PDF Available in Spanish
- Nerve Blocks (Radiological Society of North America, American College of Radiology) Available in Spanish
- Pain Control (National Cancer Institute) - PDF
- Prescription Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medicines (American Academy of Family Physicians) Available in Spanish
- Safe Use, Storage, and Disposal of Opioid Drugs (American Academy of Family Physicians) Available in Spanish
- Treating Chronic Pain with Opioids: Comparing Effectiveness and Cost (Consumers Union of U.S.) - PDF Available in Spanish
Videos and Tutorials
- Patient Education on Pain (American Academy of Pain Medicine)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Opioid Abuse in Chronic Pain--Misconceptions and Mitigation Strategies.
- Article: JAMA PATIENT PAGE. Opioids for Chronic Pain.
- Article: Opioids Prescribed After Low-Risk Surgical Procedures in the United States,...
- Pain Relievers -- see more articles
- Non-narcotic pain relievers -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Acetaminophen and Children: Why Dosage Matters (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Fentanyl Patch Can Be Deadly to Children (Food and Drug Administration)
- How Do Pain Relievers Work? (For Kids) (Nemours Foundation) Available in Spanish
- Know Concentration Before Giving Acetaminophen to Infants (Food and Drug Administration)
- Parents: Acetaminophen in Pain Relief Medicines Can Cause Liver Damage (Food and Drug Administration)
- Post-Surgery Codeine Puts Kids at Risk (Food and Drug Administration)