Delivering Pain Medicine

Delivering Pain Medicine

Medicines will help control pain. There are many ways to take pain medicines. For instance, you may use pills, patches, or a special pump. As your pain changes, the way you take medicines may change as well.

Pills, tablets, and sprays

Some medicines are swallowed. Others are allowed to dissolve in the mouth. Some medicines can be taken as a nasal spray.

Patches and suppositories

If you can't take oral medicines, a patch placed on the skin provides medicine over a few days. Some medicines, called suppositories, are placed and absorbed in the rectum.

IVs and PCA pumps

With IV (intravenous) delivery, a catheter (small tube) sends medicines into a vein in the hand or forearm. With a PCA (patient-controlled analgesia) pump, you push a button to receive a dose of pain medicine. In some cases, a pump is used to deliver pain medicine continuously. This means you don't need to push a button.


In some cases, injections are used to treat pain in specific areas. For instance, a steroid injection into a joint can decrease inflammation and joint pain. In some cases, local anesthetic medicine is injected into nerves. This is called a nerve block.

Spinal and epidural anesthesia

Spinal and epidural anesthesia are used to control severe pain. Medicines are delivered near or directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, which surrounds the spinal cord. These methods (epidural or spinal) block pain in 1 section of the body, often from the waist down.

Will I become addicted?

Pain medicine can be safely used for short periods. If these medicines are taken for longer periods, there is an increased chance that a person may become addicted. When taking medicines for pain, it is important to work closely with your health care provider and to take them only as instructed.