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It is important to choose the best pain medication based on your needs, to ensure that you are taking the medication safely and that it will be effective at treating your pain. First, you will need to determine if you need prescription pain medication, or if over-the-counter pain medication will suffice. If the pain is severe or long lasting, it may be best to visit a doctor for some professional advice. In many instances, however, such as for headaches or muscle strains, over-the-counter medication will work well.
There are a few different types of pain medications available. The two most common oral pain medications are acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Topical corticosteroids are medications that are applied topically to painful areas on the skin, but are not taken orally. Any of these mdications can be effective, but it depends on the type of pain you are treating. Narcotic pain relievers are only available through a doctor's prescription.
Acetaminophen drugs can reduce pain as well as reduce fevers, but they do not have any effect on swelling. Tylenol® is the most commonly known drug that contains acetaminophen as an active ingredient. For reducing swelling and inflammation, as well as a fever, it will be necessary to take an NSAID, such as Aspirin® or generic Ibuprofen, among others. Each pain reliever at the drugstore will be clearly marked. For relieving pain or itching on the skin, a corticosteroid such as Ben-Gay® or Icy Hot® is a common choice.
Of course, these are simply the most basic types of medications for pain. Medications to treat pain often include additional ingredients based on the symptoms one is experiencing; for instance, a pain reliever for migraines might contain an NSAID, acetaminophen, as well as caffeine, because caffeine has been shown to help treat a migraine. A sinus pain reliever may also include a decongestant. A pain reliever for the flu might also contain cough medication, for example.
For this reason and others, it is important to always carefully follow the directions on the package, and to never mix pain relievers, except as advised by a doctor. Pain medication can have dangerous inter-reactions if mixed indiscriminatly with other drugs. It is also important to consider any other medications you are taking when selecting medication for pain. For instance, many cold medications cannot be combined with blood pressure medication, because they can cause the blood pressure to rise. Any and all questions about selecting the best medication for your needs should be directed to your doctor or pharmacist, who should always be kept up to date on any medications you are taking.