Chronic Pain

Medication Tiers for Chronic Pain

Source: MediLine

There is a wide variety of chronic pain medication available to treat your symptoms. Your doctor will be able to determine which medication is right for you. In some cases, a patient may be required to take an anesthetic or other pain-related medication, such as for anxiety or depression. Here is a breakdown of the most common types of medications your doctor may prescribe.

1. Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is a type of over-the-counter pain medication found in products such as Tylenol that is designed to decrease pain by interrupting pain signals sent to the brain. It does not require a prescription; however, your doctor may tell you how much to take and when. If not taken correctly, acetaminophen can cause liver damage; therefore, it is important to follow your doctor’s directions carefully.


NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are also over-the-counter pain medications designed to treat pain similar to acetaminophen by blocking signals that the brain receives. NSAIDs are found in products such as Aleve or Advil. They can be taken without a doctor’s prescription but a doctor may advise how much to take each day. Do not take NSAIDs if you have kidney problems, liver problems, ulcers, irritable bowel disease, or if you take blood-thinners (aspirin).

3. Prescription Pain Medications

Some people may not experience pain relief while taking acetaminophen or NSAIDs; therefore, your doctor may prescribe something stronger. Opioids are available by prescription only and usually contain more powerful medications that decrease pain and calm the nervous system by blocking pain signals to the brain.

4. Anesthetics

Anesthetics can be applied topically to the skin to numb the painful area. A doctor will need to prescribe an anesthetic as it cannot be purchased as an over-the-counter medication.

5. Anticonvulsants, Mental Health, and Other Medications

In some cases, medications other than pain relievers may need to be prescribed. These include mental health drugs that treat anxiety or depression associated with chronic pain as well as anticonvulsants. Keep in mind that if a doctor prescribes you an anticonvulsant or antidepressant medication, it does not mean you are depressed or have seizures. Anticonvulsants work by treating pain caused by fibromyalgia and diabetic neuropathy. Lastly, surgery treatments may be needed to implant a device under your skin that can provide adequate relief.