There are different types of pain medication. Each works in a different way. Most people only need to take pain medication for a few days or weeks.
Please note: this information relates to adult usage only.
Over the counter (OTC) medicines; you can purchase these from your chemist.
Paracetamol is the most common form of pain medication. It works for headaches and non-nerve pain. Two 500mg tablets of paracetamol up to 4 times a day is a safe dose for adults (never take more than 8 tablets in a 24 hour period). Always check that paracetamol is NOT in any other medication you may be taking, for example Lemsip.Read Kate’s story
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
Some of these are over the counter (OTC) medicines; you can purchase these from your chemist.
Ibuprofen is anti-inflammatory medication and suited more to arthritic pain or pain caused by injury. Some people find it better for helping manage back pain than paracetamol.
Aspirin is considered an everyday anti-inflammatory used to treat occasional headaches, toothache, and period pain. It is also known as acetylsalicylic acid.
Naproxen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It reduces swelling (inflammation) and pain in joints and muscles. Naproxen is available on prescription usually as a tablet that you swallow. It can be sold to the public (OTC) for period pain relief in women aged 15–50 years. Subject to max. single dose of 500 mg, max. daily dose of 750 mg for max. 3 days, and a max. pack size of 9 x 250 mg tablets – intended for short term supply/use”
Opioid pain medication
Codeine at low doses is available OTC and comes mixed with paracetamol (co-codamol) or with aspirin (co-codaprin) or with ibuprofen (Nurofen Plus). It is also available as syrup (linctus) to treat dry coughs.
Read Kate’s story
At higher doses codeine is only available on prescription. It is available as tablets or a liquid to swallow from you GP. The most common side effects of codeine are constipation, feeling sick or feeling sleepy. The maximum dose for adults is 60mg taken 4 times a day.Read Tracie’s story
Morphine is an opioid-based pain medication and probably the one most people know. It’s used to treat severe pain, for example after an operation or a serious injury, or pain from cancer or a heart attack. Morphine is also called by the brand names MST, Zomorph, Sevredol, Morphgesic, MXL or Oramorph.Read Janet’s story
Tramadol is an opioid-based pain medication. It’s used to treat moderate to severe pain, for example after an operation or a serious injury.Read Clive’s story
Oxycodone is an opioid-based pain medication. It’s used to treat severe pain, for example after an operation or a serious injury, or pain from cancer. It is also known by the brand names Oxynorm and OxyContinRead Bob’s story
Amitriptyline is traditionally used to treat depression but at low dose levels is also used to treat pain caused by nerve sensitivity or nerve damage, such as shingles, diabetes, nerve pain and sciatica. Prescribed in 10mg, 25mg or 50mg doses, it’s usual to take amitriptyline once a day before bedtime because it can make you feel sleepy.
Duloxetine is usually used to treat depression and anxiety but has been found to sometimes be useful to treat pain.
Gabapentin is normally used to treat epilepsy, and it can also be used for nerve pain. Doses are between 900mg and 3,600mg a day split into 3 doses.Read Stephen’s story
Pregabalin is usually used to treat epilepsy and extreme anxiety. It can also be used to treat nerve pain by interfering with pain messages travelling through the brain and down the spine.Read Stephen’s story