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How Often Should I Take/Give Pain Medications?


Updated December 14, 2009

Question: How Often Should I Take/Give Pain Medications?
"My prescription says to take my pain medication every 4 hours but I don't feel any pain. Should I take the medicine as prescribed or what until I have pain?"
Answer: It is always easier to prevent pain rather than treat it. Your health care provider has no doubt made a careful decision about how much pain medication you should take and how often you should take it to achieve the best possible relief of your pain. Your important job is to take your pain medication exactly as prescribed.

If you feel like you are over medicated -- for example if you are very drowsy, confused, or dizzy -- tell your health care provider. It's normal to be drowsy and want to sleep during the first few days after starting or increasing pain medications and it should improve as your body adjusts.

If you are prescribed a medication for breakthrough pain -- a medication to take as needed for pain between regularly scheduled doses -- it's important to take the medication as soon as you feel pain. If you wait too long, you increase the likelihood that the medication won't work or that you will have to take more of it to have an effect.

Learn more about Managing Breakthrough Pain

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