5 Helpful Drug Combinations for Chronic Pain

  • Some things are meant to go together like chocolate and vanilla, strawberries and cream. And some drugs are meant to be taken together because together some combinations of chemicals create better outcomes. Using a single-drug approach to medicine can be a restrictive pathway. Although this approach may limit side effects, this approach may also limit benefits too. Let’s take a look at some examples of combinations that are helpful for treating chronic pain.


    A Muscle Relaxant and an Anti-Inflammatory: This combination of medications serves anyone with musculoskeletal pain well because inflammation often triggers muscle spasms. The heat and swelling are controlled by the anti-inflammatory chemical while the muscles relax as a result of the additional medication. So, it makes sense to take both together.

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    A Nerve “Relaxer” and an Opioid: Maybe you’ve never heard of the nerve “relaxers” used to treat nerve pain. These medications help the “calm” nerves down so that the pain impulses stop or at least diminish. Examples of medications specifically used to treat nerve pain include: gabapentin, zonisamide, amitriptyline, and desipramine. These medications are often combined with an opioid medication in order to give pain a one-two punch.


    Acetaminophen and An Anti-Inflammatory and/or an Opioid: It amazes me how many people confuse acetaminophen with an anti-inflammatory medication, thinking they are one in the same. Thus, people think that you cannot take them both together. The fact is that Acetaminophen works even better when combined with an anti-inflammatory medication or an opioid. Just watch out for hidden acetaminophen already combined with the opioid medication such as seen in Vicoden and Percocet. To avoid an acetaminophen overdose, do not exceed more than 2000mg/day of chronic acetaminophen use.


    Long-acting Opioid and Short-acting Opioid: Unfortunately, many people are just using a short-acting opioid medication to chase chronic pain. Short-acting medications are only designed to treat pain briefly and are best used for acute pain or activity related pain. Thus, someone with chronic pain needs to be on a long-acting opioid medication that can evenly control pain all day without as many ups and downs. Occasionally using a short-acting medication in combination with a long-acting medication is useful for those really bad days.


    Stool Softner and Laxative: Let’s face it; constipation happens when taking many of these medications used to treat chronic pain because they cause the bowel movements to slow down. Now, using a stool softner like ducusate sodium helps but it does not get things moving like a laxative. Thus, the combination of the two is a better solution for the constipation dilemma.


    Some medications are really just better together. One-sided, single-action treatments often are not enough to solve complex problems. Chronic pain is complex and often needs a combination of drugs to successfully tackle it from different angles.

Published On: May 25, 2014