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Sidelined By Painkillers: What To Do When Your Pain Medications Don’t Work

17 January 2023

Young lady holds a glass of water and prepares to swallow a pill

Key Points:

  • If your pain medications aren’t working, it can be frustrating and difficult to cope with. Patients can try switching medications, but it may not be the best option if they want to avoid taking stronger painkillers like opioids.
  • When pain medications fail, patients may need to look for other options, such as physical therapy and other alternative treatments. Understanding that pain management is a process that may take time, patients can learn to find the right treatment for their condition.
  • Medical cannabis is already being used as an alternative to opioids for pain management. Medical cannabis may reduce the need for painkillers, and it can act as an alternative when one has developed a tolerance for prescription analgesics. Sign up for a consultation with a Lyphe doctor to find out more about getting a medical cannabis prescription in the UK. 


Painkillers are a common treatment for physical pain, whether it’s short-term or chronic. However, painkillers aren’t always effective at treating pain in all people, and they can also have side effects. Continued use of medication-based painkillers can also lead to developing a tolerance for them, thus reducing their effectiveness.

For pain sufferers, nothing is more frustrating than being in pain and having no way to reduce it. Unfortunately, this is the case for many when their painkillers no longer work. On the bright side, some interventions can be made to relieve pain.

This article will explore what to do when painkillers do not work for you anymore. We will also discuss how you can use other interventions to reduce your pain and get back to living your life again.

Reasons why your painkillers may not be working anymore

Human brain character grabbing pills with hands

When it comes to painkillers, many people find that they either don’t work or have a short-lived effect. There are several reasons why this might be happening.

Painkillers work differently for different people

For example, some patients may find that they feel better when they take an opioid but not when they take ibuprofen. Others may respond well to one type of medication but not another—such as acetaminophen and aspirin, which both appear to help reduce inflammation in the body but do so in slightly different ways.

As such, it’s important to experiment with different types of painkillers before deciding that your particular brand isn’t working for you. Always consult a medical professional before taking any over-the-counter medications or switching to a new medication.

Drug interactions

If you are taking other medications at the same time as your painkillers, this can affect how effective each medication is individually or together.

For example: if you’re taking acetaminophen with ibuprofen or aspirin on top of tramadol (a common opioid), there is a chance that all three substances could interact negatively. Chances are they will only exacerbate your condition as they work antagonistically with one another.

As such, it is recommended that you consult with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications, especially if you’re already on a painkiller such as tramadol. Let your doctor know what you’re taking and make sure that it is safe to do so.

You have developed a tolerance to your painkiller

Prolonged use of drug-based analgesics can lead to tolerance and dependency. This means that your body becomes used to the substance and needs higher doses to achieve the same effects.

The more you take medication, the more likely it is that you will develop a tolerance or dependency on it. These are two of the most common reasons why people seek out medical assistance when they cannot manage their pain anymore.

Unfortunately, those with chronic pain conditions often have to deal with these consequences. The good news is that there are many treatments available for people who have developed a tolerance or dependency on painkillers. If you’re concerned that you may be developing a tolerance or dependency on your painkiller, talk to your doctor about it.

Don’t wait to ask for help

Doctors and patients consulting about treatment guidelines at office

The moment you realise your painkillers don’t work anymore, it’s important to talk to your doctor. If you wait too long, it could become harder to break the cycle of painkiller use.

There’s no need to wait for the pain to worsen. If it does, your condition might only become more complicated and difficult to treat.

The sooner you talk to your doctor, the better. Your doctor may be able to help you reduce your dosage or switch from one painkiller to another. In some cases, he or she may recommend that you use a different type of medication altogether.

Talk to your doctor about side effects and other medications

If you’re still not seeing any relief, consider talking to your doctor about whether there are other options that might work better for you. Despite common belief, there is no one-size-that-fits-all painkiller.

For example, you may be able to take a different type of medication that doesn’t cause as many side effects. Your doctor may also recommend that you try a different painkiller altogether—for example, instead of taking acetaminophen, they might prescribe ibuprofen or another NSAID.

Likewise, if the side effects from one prescription seem too much to handle, it might be worth asking for another different type of medication altogether. In either case, you should always speak with a healthcare professional before making changes.

Consider a surgical procedure

Sometimes, a pain symptom is caused by a physical problem that can be treated with surgery. For example, if you have chronic back pain that stems from a herniated disc, your doctor might recommend a procedure called spinal fusion surgery to alleviate your symptoms.

In invasive procedures, surgeons cut open the body and make changes to the inside. They can repair damage caused by an injury or remove an unwanted growth that’s causing pain, such as a tumour. Non-invasive procedures don’t require opening up the skin; rather, they use devices that pass through it to stimulate nerves or affect muscle activity.

Getting a surgical procedure done can be daunting. It can also be costly and time-consuming, and it’s not always covered by insurance. So if you’re thinking about getting surgery, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. When deciding whether to undergo surgery, consider your medical history. Make sure that you and your doctor have discussed all of the possible risks and complications.
  2. Check if insurance will cover the cost of surgery and, if so, how much is covered. Your doctor may be able to help you figure out whether a non-surgical procedure would be a better option for your condition.
  3. If you’re planning on having surgery, make sure you understand what’s involved in the process—including what will happen before surgery (preparation), during surgery (procedure), and after surgery (recovery).

Give cognitive behavioural therapy a try for pain relief

If you’re suffering from chronic pain, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be a good option for you. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that can help you change the way you think about your pain. It may also help reduce how much pain bothers you on a day-to-day basis.

CBT works because pain is often a product of the way you think about it. For example, if you have chronic pain and think that it will never go away, then this thought can make your pain worse. In fact, studies show that people who believe they’ll get better are more likely to get better than those who don’t believe this.

To get started with CBT, you’ll meet with a therapist. The therapist will talk to you about your pain and how it makes you feel. Together, you’ll create goals for therapy and work toward achieving them by changing the way you think about your chronic pain.

In relation to CBT, patients will also be introduced to a related technique known as mindfulness. This technique focuses on being aware of what’s happening in the present moment and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness can help you cope with your pain by teaching you how to focus on your breathing or other aspects of your environment that aren’t painful.

Consider medical cannabis

If you’re suffering from chronic pain and have found that traditional painkillers are no longer effective, it may be time to consider medical cannabis as an alternative treatment option. Medical cannabis is a plant-based medication that has been shown to be effective in managing chronic pain, as well as a variety of other conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease. It works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, which is a group of receptors found throughout the body that play a role in regulating pain, mood, and other important functions. 

While medical cannabis is still considered a controversial treatment by some, it is becoming increasingly accepted by the medical community. In 2018, medical cannabis prescriptions were made legal in the United Kingdom. 

If you’re interested in exploring medical cannabis as a treatment option, we encourage you to book a consultation with a doctor at the Lyphe clinic. Our medical professionals will be able to evaluate your condition and determine if medical cannabis is the right choice for you.

Exercise more (but don’t push yourself to exhaustion)

Exercise is a good way to get your body moving, which can help you feel better and sleep better. It can also help manage stress and pain. But it’s important to be gentle with yourself at first. If you have chronic pain like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, start with gentle exercises like yoga or tai chi.

A 2015 study suggests that regular exercise can have several positive effects on pain management. It’s been shown to improve neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to adapt to new situations) and reduce stress, two things that can help you manage pain. The study found that people with chronic pain who participated in an exercise program had lower levels of depression and anxiety than those who didn’t participate.

If you’re new to an exercise routine or have been out of the habit for a while, try a low-impact cardio workout like walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes per day. You can also do some strength training exercises like squats or lunges if they don’t cause too much discomfort in your knees. Always consult with your doctor. 

Go for an alternative medicine treatment

Female teacher leading group of mature men and women in at outdoor yoga retreat

Alternative medicine is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of treatments. It can be used to complement conventional medicine, as an alternative to conventional medicine or as an adjunct to conventional treatment. It may also be used alongside other therapies such as acupuncture, massage or physiotherapy.

Understand that pain management is a journey

Pain management is a journey, not an event. Pain management is not something that can be fixed with a quick fix or one-time treatment. It’s important to understand this so you don’t become frustrated if your pain hasn’t gone away after taking painkillers for a few days. If you’ve tried everything and still feel pain or have new symptoms, it’s time to talk with your doctor about other treatment options.

Pain management is also different for everyone—it’s not linear but rather follows many paths and twists and turns over time. For example, some people have to stop taking a certain medication because their bodies cannot tolerate the side effects (such as nausea), so they try another medication instead and see if that helps them manage their pain better than taking nothing at all!

Conclusion – What To Do When Painkillers Don’t Work

The truth is that, for some, the pain never goes away. But that doesn’t mean that there are no options to manage a chronic pain condition. Even when painkillers don’t work, there are other treatments that can help manage the pain.

When it comes to managing chronic pain, the most important thing is to find something that works for you and your body. And if one method doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to try another approach.

Pain management is a long-term process, and it takes time to find the right combination of treatments for your body. But by being patient and understanding that there are many options available to you, you’ll be able to find what works best for your pain.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you deal with extreme pain?

Over-the-counter painkillers are a great way to get through the worst of the pain. But if you’re dealing with chronic pain, it’s important to find a holistic way to manage that pain so that it doesn’t stop you from doing things in your daily life. Always consult with your doctor before changing your medication.

Why do I still feel pain after taking painkillers?

It’s possible that you’re taking the wrong kind of painkiller for your specific type of pain. It’s also possible that you’ve developed a tolerance to them and need to increase how much you’re taking in order to feel better. Always consult with your doctor.

Why does ibuprofen work for me anymore?

It’s common for people to develop a tolerance to painkillers like ibuprofen. If you’re taking over-the-counter painkillers regularly, you might be better off switching your medication for something stronger (which can cause side effects) or trying an alternative treatment method. Always consult with your doctor.

How long does it take for painkillers to settle in?

It can take up to an hour for painkillers to start working. This is because they need time to travel through your body and be absorbed into your bloodstream. Always consult with your doctor before changing your medication.

What to do when my pain medication is not working after surgery?

If you’re experiencing pain after surgery, the first thing to do is to let your doctor know. If your pain doesn’t go away or gets worse, it could mean that there’s an issue with your recovery process, and they’ll be able to help you figure out what’s going on.


Author: Bojan
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Bojan Ambrus, Head of Marketing & Digital Product at Lyphe Group, is a data-driven growth marketing professional with over 15 years of rich experience. His background includes roles such as Head of Marketing at and growth marketing roles in various enterprises, startups, and scale-ups. His expertise in building and positioning businesses is particularly valuable in the cannabis sector, where he navigates its complexities and regulatory challenges. His strategic marketing insights make Bojan a key player in shaping Lyphe Group's marketing and digital product strategies.

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