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Questions and answers about pain medicines

Q: When and how often should you take pain medicine?
A: Take pain medicine when your pain begins. If you know your pain gets worse with activity, take the medicine before you do the activity. Important: Do not wait for the pain to get worse before taking medicine. Pain tablets or pills may take up to 20 minutes to begin working.

Q: How can you take pain medicine?
A: There are many ways to give medicine for pain. Your doctor will help you decide which way might be best for you:

  • tablets or pills
  • suppository
  • intravenous (into a vein)
  • patches
  • patient controlled analgesia (PCA) pump
  • injection (shot) through the skin
  • shot or infusion into the spinal canal

Q: What are the side effects?
A: All medicines have possible side effects. When side effects occur, it is usually within a few hours after taking the medicine. Most side effects can be managed and go away in time.

Tell your doctor or nurse right away if you have:

  • constipation
  • sleepiness
  • dizziness
  • itching, rash or both
  • nausea or vomiting
  • slowed breathing
  • confusion

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Understanding Your Colon or Rectal Surgery, can-ah-95399
First Published: 01/24/2013
Last Reviewed: 08/15/2017