Pain management patches are a treatment option for patients suffering from severe, chronic pain. A doctor may prescribe a patient a pain patch because he feels the patient will experience fewer side effects with a patch than with oral pills, a cream or an injection. Other reasons why a doctor may try a person on pain patches is because oral medications have stopped working well for the patient, or the patient needs medication administered slowly and steadily, 24 hours a day. There are several different types of pain management patches. Common ones include the lidocaine patch, the fentanyl patch and hot/cold patches.
Lidocaine is a gel used as a local anesthetic by doctors during procedures to numb an area. Pain patients can utilize lidocaine to numb parts of the body that are causing pain. Lidocaine is available for patients in both gel and patch form with a doctor's prescription. People suffering from nerve pain or arthritis pain may benefit from the use of these patches. Patients should apply a patch to clean skin and should only leave it on for 12 hours or less each day.
Fentanyl patches are among the strongest pain treatments available. This type of patch is typically only given to people with serious conditions, because fentanyl is a very powerful narcotic drug that is stronger than both morphine and oxycodone. Their strength means fentanyl patches should not be used as a first choice for pain treatment. Patients who are prescribed the fentanyl patch typically have already tried oral narcotics — such as oxycodone, hydrocodone or morphine — and have not had success with treating their pain in this manner.
It is important that people using fentanyl patches follow their doctors' orders at all times. Using these patches the wrong way can be addictive and dangerous. Pain patients should be sure to keep their pain patches under close watch. If a person who does not have a tolerance for taking narcotic pain medications uses a fentanyl patch, it can be life-threatening.
Not all pain management patches require prescriptions. Over-the-counter hot-and-cold patches also can be used to help treat a person's pain. These patches are the equivalent of a portable heating pad or ice pack. These patches are usually wrapped individually and typically last anywhere from 8 to 12 hours once activated. Hot-and-cold patches are usually intended to be attached to the interior of a person's clothing, unlike prescription pain patches that stick directly to a person's skin.