Live Freely; pain management alternatives

Live Freely; pain management alternatives

As of the 1st of February 2018, medicines containing codeine require a prescription from your doctor. This article outlines some alternative treatments to those with codeine.

When discussing your pain medication needs, the pharmacist may undertake a pain assessment. The pharmacist will be assessing the following:

  • Duration of the pain
  • Has the pain been experienced for more or less than three months?
  • Nature of the pain
  • Is the pain burning, pins and needles or proportionate to the injury or action and consistent with the tissue injury or not
  • Severity of the pain
  • What ist he effect on function and what is the severity out of 10 with 0 being no pain to 10 being the highest level? A pain scale such as the Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale can be useful especially for children.

Treatment options

The aim of treating pain is to reduce the pain to a point that the patient is able to function.

Non-medicinal treatments

  • Heat packs for long-term muscle and joint pain and stiffness
  • Cold packs for acute injury, as this helps to reduce inflammation
  • Massage and exercise may assist with chronic pain conditions
  • TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is used in acute and chronic pain
  • Relaxation techniques and mind- therapy for chronic pain conditions.

Pain medicines

The following medicines may be recommended:

  • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs) such as diclofenac and ibuprofen help with pain and inflammation. NSAIDs may not be appropriate for those with asthma, bleeding, cardiovascular disorders
    or the elderly. Always check with
    the pharmacist, as NSAIDs may also interact with other medicines.
  • Paracetamol is useful for acute pain that is mild to moderate in nature. People with chronic liver disease must use paracetamol with caution and again always consult your pharmacist to ensure it is the right medicine for you.

There are now also medicines that combine both paracetamol and ibuprofen and this can be useful for a number of pain conditions.

When to see your GP

There are certain conditions that will prompt your pharmacist to refer you to a GP. These include:

  • Severe pain or pain not controlled well enough by over-the-counter pain medications
  • Pain following trauma (such as a fall in an elderly person)
  • Sudden onset of a severe headache
  • Lower back pain with loss of bladder or bowel function
  • New onset of headaches in those over 50 years of age
  • Pain associated with fever
  • Long-term pain, lasting greater than 3 months
  • Pain that may be neuropathic in nature.

To manage your pain well it is important to work with your healthcare team. These may include your GP, physiotherapist, psychologist, exercise physiologist and of course, your pharmacist.

For further advice speak with your National Pharmacies pharmacist.


Author: Robyn Johns
Senior Pharmacist


The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and should be used as a guide only. This information does not replace or substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before any action is taken based on the content of this webpage.

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