A review of over-the-counter pain medication

  • Lynn Lambert Amayeza Information Services
Keywords: pain, over-the-counter analgesics


Pain is defined as an unpleasant physical sensation which differs in type, intensity, duration and location. Pain is subjective, and its management should extend beyond pain relief. The patient’s quality of life and ability to function normally in society should also be taken into consideration. Generally, a mild painkiller or analgesic will relieve pain if the underlying source of the pain is not serious. A wide variety of over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics are available to enable patients to effectively self-manage their pain without having to visit a doctor. Analgesics are more effective if started in the earliest stage of pain development, rather than initiated to relieve established pain. The choice of a suitable OTC analgesic can be overwhelming for patients as there are numerous available brands, combinations and formulations. Factors which need to be considered when selecting an analgesic are the cause, severity and nature of the pain, the characteristics of the medication and the individual patient. The role of the pharmacist’s assistant is vital in educating patients with regard to the safe use of OTC analgesics since these medications are usually kept at home for future use, and may be recommended to others to use. In general, OTC analgesics are used to manage headaches, toothache, dysmenorrhoea (painful menstrual periods), minor musculoskeletal injuries, or pain associated with sinusitis, colds or influenza.

Author Biography

Lynn Lambert, Amayeza Information Services
BPharm Amayeza Information Services