Most people with chronic pain are on a number of different medications and supplements. Pain is a complicated phenomenon, so chronic pain often responds best to a rather complicated medication regimen. Your pain medications might include an anti-inflammatory medication, a muscle relaxer, an anti-depressant, and an anti-seizure medication, as well as an opioid, and then there are all the other medications you are taking for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and on and on. How do you keep it all straight?!?!
It may be complicated, but there are some tips and tricks that can be helpful, even if you are only on 1 or 2 medications.
First, know why you are taking each of your medications. The reason for prescribing a medication may not be what you would think. For example, anti-inflammatory medications are sometimes prescribed because they may help opioids work better longer. Some muscle relaxers may be prescribed because they have an additional action that helps to manage neuropathic and chronic pain. If you have not already, ask your prescriber to tell you the reason for each of the medications he or she is prescribing. Understanding WHY you are prescribed a medication can help you keep them straight.
Second, write it down. Keep an updated list of everything you take, even the ones that are over-the-counter, only-as-needed, herbals, vitamins, supplements, creams/lotions, drops – everything. Include the name of the medication, the strength, how many, how often, and who prescribes it for you. Update the list whenever something changes. Make sure you give all of your health care providers a copy of the list every time you see them, whether you think they have it or not. And check with your prescribers to make sure you understand how to take your medications, and are taking them correctly.
Third, use a pill organizer. A lot of people don’t want to do this – “you mean like my grandmother had?? I’m not that bad.” Actually, it makes things a lot easier, a lot less time-consuming, and you don’t have remember whether or not you took your meds, so it’s safer and you can use that brain power for something more productive. You are less likely to run out of medications, and more likely to take them as prescribed, which is how they work best. Pill organizers are pretty inexpensive and come in all sorts of colors and designs, to fit what you need. When you fill your pill organizer, I recommend doing it on a large tray with sides. That way, if you drop or spill the pills, they don’t roll under the bed or into the sink.
Fourth, use a daily pill container. For medications that you take a few times a day as needed, get a small pill container that you can fit in your purse or pocket. There are even some nifty ones that go on a key chain! Keep one day’s worth of medications in the pill container. For example, if you are allowed to take 4 tablets a day, start each day with 4 tablets in the daily pill container. Don’t carry around the whole bottle – that is a recipe for disaster. You can also use this for your regular scheduled medications, if you will be out of the house when you need to take them. And by the way, all medications that are not in your pill organizer or your daily pill container should be kept under lock and key.
Fifth, use an alarm to remember to take your medications on time. Cell phones are fabulous at this. Set an alarm on your phone to go off every day at the time(s) you are supposed to take your medications. If this isn’t an option for you, there are lots of watches with alarms, and alarms made specifically for medications, some small enough to fit in a purse or pocket, some larger. Most have audible and vibrating alarms, so will work even if your hearing isn’t the best. Some even have built-in pill cases!
Taking medications as they are prescribed is the best way to make them work for you. It also helps your health care providers figure out what might be the best medication regimen for you, to get the best effect with the least risk of adverse effects.
At North Shore Pain Management we provide advanced, evidence based, multidisciplinary and cost effective pain management. Our goal is to improve your ability to return to the activities you have been missing as well as provide a meaningful reduction in pain.