Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication — what you need to know

pain relief

We’ve all experienced pain before, with nearly all of us using an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever.

However, with so many options available, how do you know which one is the best for the pain you are experiencing? And is your choice safe?

Ask an expert for help

The best person to speak to when it comes to OTC pain relief is your pharmacist. They know how medicines work with different kinds of pain, and can also advise of possible side-effects and cautionary measures you need to take, when using medication.

The more information you can give your pharmacist, the better they are able to help you. For example:

  • Where is the pain?
  • What does it feel like? (throbbing, crampy, sharp, a constant dull ache)
  • How long have you had the pain?
  • Have you experienced this pain before?
  • What medication (if any) have you tried to alleviate the pain?
  • Did that medication work, and if so, for how long?
  • Are you taking any other medications?

Once they have this information, they can advise you on which medication will be suitable for you, including dosage.

Different forms of medication

OTC pain-killers come in a variety of different forms — soluble, capsule, caplet, tablets.

Other than the appearance of these medications, the only difference is:

  • how quickly they are absorbed, which determines how quickly they work
  • how easy they are to swallow (which is why some have coatings or are tiny).

If you find it difficult to swallow tablets, you may prefer a soluble medication. OTC pain relief made with gel caps or labelled, ‘fast acting’ or ‘rapid’ dissolve more quickly than standard tables, which means they provide relief quicker. It’s important to remember however, that the active ingredient will be the same across all different forms.

stay safe with OTC medicationsStay safe

Even though every day pain relief is available over the counter, they are still medications and therefore may have side effects. If not taken correctly, they can cause serious side effects. They can also cause serious consequences if they interact with another medication you take, or in some people with pre-existing conditions. That’s why it’s important to discuss their use with a pharmacist.

If your pain persists, or you are concerned about the cause of your pain, visit your doctor.

 Further information

NPS Medicinewise

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