pain medications increase pain sensitivity

Pain medications increase pain sensitivity.  Many people experiencing chronic pain want to grab an analgesic to help find relief. After all, analgesics exist for the very reason of easing the pain.  And they often do bring some level of pain relief to those who use them. These painkillers are often readily within reach.  Making it even more attractive as a way to deal with the pain. But what if reaching for that analgesic would end up causing to feel more sensitive to pain later? Would you still continue to reach for it?

This is a question that many people want to consider on the heels of new research published in the June 2017 issues of the journal BMC Pharmacology & Toxicology. Researchers set out to answer the question of whether taking analgesics for chronic pain ends up leading to an increase in pain sensitivity (1). Using the Tromsø Study, they evaluated information from over 10,000 adults to study the association between pain sensitivity and analgesic use in the general population.

Their research evaluated 8 years of prescription data from the Norwegian Prescription Database, evaluating patients who were ages 30 and up. Evaluating those who had been taking pain killers during that time.  They were able to answer whether or not there was an increase in pain sensitivity from the analgesic use.

What their research showed was that an increase in pain sensitivity was associated with the analgesic use.

They found that regular use of opioids alone was more pain sensitive than regular users of non-opioid analgesics. Additionally, research showed that reduced pain tolerance was found both opioid and non-opioid analgesic users.

This is important research and information for those who suffer from chronic pain.  As well as those who assist people with chronic pain. It may seem like a simplified approach to reach for pain killers whenever someone is experiencing chronic pain.  But, in doing so the risk of the person increased more pain sensitive and reduced the pain tolerance. In other words, the painkillers may provide a short-term reduction in pain.

And pain medications increase pain sensitivity that leads to a feeling of even more pain down the line.

Those who used an analgesic to manage chronic pain, start considering using some other pain management tools available to them. These include everything from yoga to meditation to breathing exercises and beyond. Finding options that bring some relief may reduce the need to reach for the painkillers.


1. BMC Pharmacology & Toxicology. Pain sensitivity and analgesic use among 10,486 adults.