Understanding the Different Types of Pain Medication Therapies

According to estimates from the CDC, about 70 million Americans live with chronic pain, including about 20 million people with symptoms so severe, they limit their everyday activities. For these men and women, getting medical treatment is essential to help them lead normal, active lives and prevent physical and mental health complications, like heart disease and depression.

Pain medication can play an essential role in helping many people manage their symptoms, so they can enjoy a normal level of function gain. Still, many people worry about pain medicines’ side effects, including the potential risk of addiction. 

The key to avoiding those potential complications is to work with a pain management specialist with a broad knowledge of both opioid and non-opioid medications, so you can feel confident your plan will be both effective and safe.

At Vulcan Pain Management, Victor E. Mendoza, MD, helps women and men in Birmingham, Alabama, find a pain management therapy that works for them. As a top-ranked pain management specialist, Dr. Mendoza offers medication-based therapies along with non-drug therapies, with every management plan tailored to the individual patient’s unique needs.

If you’re suffering from chronic pain, here’s how custom pain medication therapy could help you find relief.

How pain medication works

Pain medications work in different ways, depending on the chemical structure of the medicine. Many medications work by blocking or binding with special “receptors” on nerve endings, preventing pain signals from being transferred to the brain. Other pain medicines focus on the inflammation that can cause or contribute to painful symptoms.

Opioids are perhaps the most well-known type of prescription pain reliever, and for certain types of pain, they can be a good, albeit usually temporary, solution. Today, though, there are plenty of non-opioid alternatives that can provide excellent pain relief, either instead of opioid medicines or after an initial course of opioid pain relievers.

Medication therapy options

Dr. Mendoza uses both opioid medications and non-opioids to treat pain in his patients. The decision of which type of medication to use will be based on the cause of pain, the level of symptoms, the patient’s medical history, and other factors. Below are three medications that could be used in your pain management therapy.


Buprenorphine is an opioid medication that’s prescribed to treat severe and chronic pain. It works by altering the way the nervous system responds to pain signals. Interestingly, this medication is also used to treat opioid addiction by preventing other opioids from binding to opioid receptors.

Tapentadol (NUCYNTA®)

Tapentadol is another type of opioid that also comes in a long-acting form. It’s frequently used to treat pain in people who need round-the-clock relief and don’t respond to non-opioid alternatives.

Pregabalin (LYRICA®)

Pregabalin is a non-opioid medicine that works by “calming down” nerve cells that are especially sensitive to pain signals. It’s often used to treat pain from shingles, neuropathy, spinal cord injuries, and fibromyalgia. 

Non-drug therapies

Depending on the type of pain you have, Dr. Mendoza may recommend an alternative therapy that doesn’t rely on medications. These therapies can be used alone to prevent some types of pain or in combination with medication. Alternative non-drug therapies include:

Having access to a wide array of pain treatment options enables Dr. Mendoza to tailor a treatment program that’s ideal for your symptoms, medical profile, and lifestyle.

Find relief for your chronic pain

Dr. Mendoza has extensive experience in prescribing pain management therapies using opioid and non-opioid medications, along with alternative therapies. During treatment, your therapy will be closely monitored and adjusted to suit your specific needs, so you can find the relief you need to get back to the life you want. To learn more about pain management options available at Vulcan Pain Management, call the office or use our online form to request an appointment today.

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