Over-the-Counter Chronic Pain Relief

Over-the-Counter Chronic Pain Relief

Living with chronic pain can be both physically and emotionally draining, and finding effective over-the-counter chronic pain relief often feels like an uphill battle. The standard over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as Advil and paracetamol, might not always provide the desired relief. Furthermore, many people are unable or unwilling to use prescription painkillers due to side effects, the potential for addiction, or personal preferences.

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A few common OTC pain relievers, medications, and other tools may help alleviate chronic pain when Advil and paracetamol fall short, but it’s crucial to use these medications safely and effectively. Let’s dive into the options that may bring much-needed relief to those of us living with chronic illnesses.

The information in this blog post is provided for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read online. The author of this post is not a licensed medical professional and does not assume any liability for any actions taken based on the information contained in this post.

Understanding Different OTC Pain Relievers

When it comes to OTC pain relievers, it’s essential to know your options. In addition to ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (paracetamol), there are other medications that can help relieve pain:


Naproxen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) available OTC under the brand name Aleve. It can provide longer-lasting relief than ibuprofen and is often used for conditions like arthritis, menstrual pain, and headaches.


Aspirin is another NSAID that works by reducing inflammation and pain. It can be particularly effective for headaches, toothaches, and minor body aches. However, aspirin should be used with caution and is not recommended for children or teenagers due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome.

Combination medications:

Some OTC pain relievers combine acetaminophen with other active ingredients, like caffeine or an antihistamine. These formulations can provide added pain relief, especially for conditions like migraines and tension headaches. A few examples include Excedrin Migraine and Advil Dual Action.

It’s crucial to read the labels and follow the recommended dosages for any OTC pain relievers to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Essential OTC Pain Relievers infographic

Topicals for Over-the-Counter Chronic Pain Relief

Topical analgesics, such as creams, gels, and patches, can provide targeted relief for localized pain without the need for oral medications. They often contain ingredients like:


This local anesthetic can temporarily numb the area where it’s applied, providing relief from pain caused by conditions like arthritis or neuropathy.


Diclofenac is a topical NSAID available in gel form (e.g., Voltaren) that can help reduce inflammation and pain in conditions like osteoarthritis.


Products containing counterirritants, such as menthol, camphor, or methyl salicylate, create a cooling or warming sensation on the skin, which can help distract from the pain.

Absorbine Jr.

Absorbine Jr. is one of my personal favorite counterirritant topicals for chronic pain relief!

Topical treatments can be especially helpful for joint pain, muscle soreness, and nerve pain. Be sure to read the labels and follow the directions for proper usage.

The Role of Non-Drug Pain Relief Strategies

In addition to over-the-counter chronic pain relief medications, non-drug strategies can play a significant role in managing symptoms. Some popular methods include:

Physical therapy:

Working with a physical therapist can help you develop an exercise and stretching routine tailored to your specific needs, which can reduce pain and improve overall function.

Massage therapy:

Regular massage can help reduce muscle tension, improve blood flow, and promote relaxation, which can contribute to pain relief.

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation):

This therapy involves using a small, battery-powered device that sends mild electrical currents through electrodes placed on the skin. These electrical signals may help block pain signals from reaching the brain and promote the release of endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers.

If you’re dealing with chronic menstrual pain, in particular, be sure to check out the Livia device, “the off switch for menstrual pain.”

Livia Kit

Heat and cold therapy:

Applying heat or cold to painful areas can provide temporary relief for many types of chronic pain. Heat therapy can help relax muscles and improve blood flow, while cold therapy can numb pain and reduce inflammation.


This traditional Chinese medicine technique involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to help alleviate pain and restore balance.

I haven’t tried traditional acupuncture yet but I have had some luck with acupressure! I’ve used an acupressure mat as well as devices like the Culief tool to take advantage of pressure points and principles similar to those used in acupuncture.


I recently invested in a Cefaly migraine management device and am so glad I did! Learn more and order your own on their website.

Practicing Self-Care and Emotional Support

Living with chronic pain can take a toll on your emotional well-being. Incorporating self-care practices and seeking emotional support can play a crucial role in pain management. Some strategies to consider include:

Sleep hygiene:

Prioritizing quality sleep can help reduce fatigue and improve pain tolerance. Develop a consistent sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and optimize your sleep environment for better rest.

Stress management:

Chronic stress can exacerbate pain, making it essential to find healthy ways to cope with stressors. Consider practices like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or journaling to help manage stress.

Looking to get started with gratitude journaling? Give our 30-Day chronic illness guided journal a look!

30-day chronic illness guided journal

Support networks:

Connecting with others who understand your experience with chronic pain can provide invaluable emotional support. Look for local support groups or online forums, or consider talking to a mental health professional.

Talkspace Affiliate

If you’re struggling with your mental health, consider utilizing Talkspace online therapy.

Communicate with Your Healthcare Provider

It’s essential to maintain an open dialogue with your healthcare provider about your pain management plan. They can help guide you in selecting appropriate OTC pain relievers and offer additional suggestions for managing your pain. Remember that finding the right combination of treatments may take time and may require adjustments along the way.

Consider utilizing our free printable Questions to Ask Your Doctor worksheet to prepare for your next appointment!

Are you looking for an accessible primary care physician? Try PlushCare! This telehealth platform lets you see a qualified GP from home, getting you the care you need when you need it. Use our referral link to get your first three months’ membership free.

PlushCare logo

Chronic pain can be challenging to manage, but it’s important to know that there are OTC pain relief options beyond Advil and paracetamol. By exploring different medications, topical treatments, and non-drug strategies, you can create a more comprehensive and personalized pain management plan.

Remember that everyone’s experience with chronic pain is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Stay patient, communicate with your healthcare provider, and remain committed to finding the best combination of treatments that work for you.

Ultimately, managing chronic pain is a journey that requires patience, self-compassion, and a dedication to discovering what brings relief to your unique situation. With the right support and tools in place, you can take control of your pain management and live a more fulfilling life despite your chronic illness.

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