From Pill to Pain Patches – Is there a Safer Treatment for Pain?

From Pill to Pain Patches

Oral painkillers are something that many people rely on to enjoy a good quality of life, but taking them can be dangerous, especially if you are taking ones that can cause stomach ulcers, or ones that are addictive and carry with them a high risk of overdose. One thing that a lot of people are doing now is using pain patches. These innovative new medications have been gaining popularity in certain parts of the world, including China, because they offer more controlled delivery. Their use has spread to Europe as well and they are starting to gain acceptance in the US too.


Almost 90 percent of the population in the US uses pills instead of patches, currently, but there are more and more patch options coming up on the market; and, as the Baby Boomer generation starts to feel the effects of aging, their health-conscious mindset means that patches have an enthusiastic trial market.

Are patches effective? Are they really safer than pills, or do they just ‘feel’ safer because you’re not taking them orally? For relief, it works.

Patches as a Delivery System

Well, there are some clear benefits to patches. Prescription pain patches offer the same pain relief as pills and injections, but they help people to avoid certain side effects such as upset stomachs or internal bleeding. They can also offer consistent pain relief over longer periods of time, which can be invaluable for people who are suffering from chronic pain.

Sadly, they aren’t perfect. They do carry some risks, including that of unintentional overdose. Let’s take the example of fentanyl. This is something that is offered as a narcotic pain reliever, and it is often used for the treatment of chronic pain. Fentanyl acts on the nervous system and can therefore offer long-term pain relief. However, it can be addictive since it is a narcotic. Doctors prescribe it because it is one of the most powerful painkillers out there, but it can be quite dangerous.

Doctors will recommend patches for moderate to severe pain that cannot be controlled through other means. For those who do have chronic pain, the patches can be a lifeline, however they are not without side-effects. Just as the pills can cause issues including dizziness, confusion and fatigue, so can the patches. Other dangerous side effects such as fainting, loss of consciousness and breathing problems are not completely eliminated by the patches either.

Where patches can be useful, however, is with things like Lidocaine or Lidoderm. these are patches that will numb the skin that they are put upon, and this can be a good way of treating stinging or burning pains. Lidocaine can be useful for conditions such as shingles.

How Patches Are Used

How Patches Are Used

Patches are applied directly to the skin. If you’re using Lidocaine then you will need to put the patch on the area that is painful. If you’re using Fentanyl then a good spot to put the patch is on your upper arm. Choose an area that is cool, that isn’t too hairy and that doesn’t get too sweaty or hot. You will usually be given a 12 microgram/hr patch at first, although you might be given a 25 microgram/hr patch, depending on your age, size, and the severity of your pain. Take care not to touch the sticky side of the patch when you unwrap it. Press it to the area that you want it to adhere to, and make sure that the whole patch is secure, especially the area around the edges.

The patch should last you for 72 hours, so you want to make sure that you aren’t going to have to worry about it coming off. It is vital that you take the patch off after 72 hours. If you are applying a new patch, put it on a different area of skin. Never use more than one patch at a time, and never cut patches. If you see that a patch is damaged, then do not used it. A damaged patch might release the drug too rapidly, which could be very dangerous.

Wrap your old patches up and dispose of them carefully. Do not leave them where children and animals might find them. Even a used patch still contain a small amount of the drug and could be dangerous to a child or a pet.

A Growing Innovation

These new patches are just the first generation, and over time who knows what we could see come next in terms of controlled release or improved safety. Drugs will never be entirely without side-effects, but patches already offer some benefits for people who have had issues with bleeding or stomach ulcers when taking oral medications. The risk of overdose still exists, but it is much harder to accidentally overdose, since you can’t “forget that you had put a patch on”.

Patches are not typically as fast acting as other forms of medication. Someone who is in very severe pain may indeed need injections, for example.

If you are suffering from long-term pain and you would like to try pain patches instead of pills, talk to your doctor. They may be open to you trying patches for a few weeks to see if they work for you. They will advise you to try different doses and will work with you to figure out what would work best in terms of the size of the patch and the strength. Certain patch-based herbal remedies and alternative medicines are becoming increasingly popular for recovery and muscle soreness, but these are vastly different to medical patches and are best used only for workout recovery rather than for severe pain. It’s always a good idea to discuss your treatment plans with your doctor before you try any other form of remedy.

Article Submitted By Community Writer

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