Key messages

  • Pain medications include pills, creams/ointments and injections that are available over-the-counter or prescribed by your doctor.

  • Pain-relieving medications work best when they are used with physical and psychological therapies (3Ps).

  • Your doctor might suggest using balanced analgesia for your pain. This means prescribing a range of pain medications to maximize your pain relief and minimize negative side effects.

  • One class of prescription pain relief are opioids. These are rarely a first resort and must be taken under close supervision. Side effects include risk of addiction, physical dependence, tolerance and overdose.

  • Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the use of natural health products or treatment methods alongside your conventional treatments.

  • Always tell your doctor or nurse practitioner about all medications and natural products you are taking and whether you would like to stop or change any medications. This way you can minimize any side effects and harmful interactions.

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