OTC Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers (cont.)

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Acute pain from such injuries can respond well to OTC pain medication. Muscle soreness also may respond well to heat and massage.

Chronic non-malignant pain

Chronic non-malignant pain often begins as acute pain, but it continues beyond the typical time expected for resolution of the problem or persists or recurs for other reasons. It is a type of pain associated with progressive, debilitating diseases such as arthritis. Treatment for chronic non-malignant pain can include OTC medications . However, because of the chronic nature of the pain, regular use of OTC medications can lead to side effects.

Chronic malignant pain

Chronic malignant pain is pain associated with advanced, progressive diseases (often fatal) such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and terminal kidney disease. OTC medications for pain may be useful for the management of chronic malignant pain. However, stronger prescription medications are usually necessary.

What are the types of headaches?

Headaches are the most common reason that pain medications (analgesics) are taken. Headaches can be classified into three types:

  1. muscle contraction,
  2. migraine or vascular, and
  3. sinus.

Muscle contraction headache

A muscle contraction headache, the most common type, results from the continuous tightening of the muscles in the upper back, neck, or scalp. This type of headache often is described as a tight, pressing, or throbbing sensation of the head. It can be brought on by emotional stress and anxiety ("tension headaches"). Acute muscle contraction headaches generally respond well to OTC analgesics, but chronic muscle contraction headaches can require physical therapy or relaxation techniques.

Migraine or vascular headaches

Migraine or vascular headaches are due to dilation (widening) of blood vessels in the head. An estimated 28 million people in the United States (about 12% of the population) will experience migraine headaches. Migraine headaches affect children as well as adults. Before puberty, boys are affected more than girls by migraine headaches. However, as a child nears adolescence, girls are affected more than boys. An estimated 6% of men and up to 18% of women will experience a migraine headache. Although many patients use the expression "migraine" to describe any particularly painful headache, many of these are actually muscle contraction headaches. OTC medications for pain may be quite effective for treating migraine headaches. However, prescription medications that are specifically formulated for treating or preventing migraines are often necessary.

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