How to Handle Typical Side Effects of Pain Relief Medications


In order to help people with acute or chronic pain disorders manage their discomfort and enhance their quality of life, pain medicines are frequently essential. But just like any drug, painkillers can have adverse effects that differ based on the kind taken and personal circumstances. This article discusses the typical adverse effects of painkillers and offers helpful coping mechanisms.

Recognizing Typical Side Effects

Gastrointestinal problems

Gastrointestinal irritation is one of the most frequent adverse effects of painkillers, particularly nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) and some opioids. This may present as diarrhea, vomiting, heartburn, indigestion, or stomach pain. The stomach lining’s protective enzymes are known to be inhibited by NSAIDs, which increases the risk of ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Tiredness and Lightheadedness

Some painkillers, especially opioids and some muscle relaxants, can make you feel sleepy, drowsy, or dizzy. These side effects raise the possibility of accidents when driving or using machinery since they might affect coordination, cognitive function, and reaction speeds. These side effects are more common in the elderly and in people taking numerous drugs.


Constipation is a common side effect of opioid painkillers because of its impact on the gastrointestinal system. They can cause hard stools, bloating, discomfort in the abdomen, and trouble passing stools because they slow down bowel motions. In order to properly manage chronic constipation, extra interventions might be necessary and can be uncomfortable.

Liver and Kidney Damage

Certain painkillers, especially acetaminophen and NSAIDs, have the potential to harm the liver and kidneys when used long-term. NSAIDs have the potential to cause fluid retention and decrease renal blood flow, which over time can result in renal issues. When acetaminophen is consumed in excess or in conjunction with alcohol, it might irritate the liver and possibly result in liver failure.

Depression of the Respiratory System

Robust opioids, like morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl, have the ability to suppress the respiratory system, resulting in shallow breathing, delayed breathing, and in severe cases, respiratory arrest. If this side effect is noticed, it is extremely serious and needs to be treated right away.

Handling Typical Side Effects

Intestinal Adverse Effects

To address gastrointestinal problems brought on by painkillers:

Take NSAIDs with milk or food to lessen gastrointestinal distress.

To preserve the stomach lining, take histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2 blockers) or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

Steer clear of alcohol and tobacco, as they might worsen stomach irritation.

If your gastrointestinal issues increase or last longer, think about trying different painkillers.

Tiredness and Lightheadedness

To control fatigue and vertigo:

Adhere to the doctor’s prescription and don’t take more medication than is advised.

If you’re feeling sleepy or lightheaded, don’t operate heavy machinery or drive.

When taking painkillers alongside sedatives, alcohol, or other CNS depressants, exercise caution.

If you continue to feel sleepy, think about taking non-sedating painkillers or adjusting your dosage under a doctor’s supervision.


In order to treat constipation brought on by opiate painkillers:

Drink more water and eat a diet high in fiber to encourage regular bowel movements.

Follow a doctor’s instructions when using laxatives or over-the-counter stool softeners.

Exercise on a regular basis to promote bowel movement.

If constipation becomes chronic, talk with a healthcare practitioner about alternate pain management techniques or opioid rotation.

Protection of the Liver and Kidneys

To safeguard the health of your kidneys and liver when taking painkillers:

Restrict the amount of time and dose at which you take NSAIDs.

Regularly check kidney function, especially in people who already have renal disease.

Steer clear of alcohol when using acetaminophen in excess.

When appropriate, take drugs that are less likely to damage the kidneys or liver.

Depression of the Respiratory System

To reduce the possibility of respiratory depression when taking opioid drugs:

Opioids should be taken as directed; do not raise the dosage suddenly.

Opioids should never be taken alongside other substances that depress the central nervous system, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines.

For better control over dosage and monitoring, choose immediate-release opioids rather than formulations with a longer release.

If you exhibit symptoms of respiratory depression, such as shallow or sluggish breathing, get emergency medical help.

The Value of Communication and Monitoring

For the purpose of detecting and controlling any possible adverse effects of painkillers, regular monitoring by medical professionals is essential. It is critical to be transparent about any discomfort or negative side effects encountered when taking painkillers. To reduce side effects and improve pain management, medical professionals may change prescriptions, change dosages, or offer more assistance.

In summary

Although painkillers are often quite successful in reducing discomfort, they can also have common adverse effects that need to be managed. Through comprehension of the possible adverse consequences linked to various kinds of painkillers and execution of tactics to mitigate them, people might reduce discomfort and enhance their general health. Maintaining open lines of contact with medical professionals, taking prescription drugs as directed, and making lifestyle changes are all important for minimizing side effects and maximizing the therapeutic advantages of painkillers.

May 29, 2024