Over The Counter Medicines

Using over-the-counter medicines

There are a range of pain relief medicines that can be bought without prescription as over-the-counter pain relievers, including paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen. Just because they are available over-the-counter does not mean that they are completely free of side effects and you should always check with your pharmacist or doctor if you are unsure whether these drugs are safe for you or not. If you have allergies, chronic illness or are on any other medicines always check first before taking these medicines.


One of the most commonly used is paracetamol, which is effective for mild to moderate pain, if used correctly. When you take paracetamol, check that none of your other medicines contain the same active ingredient, as it can cause serious liver damage if taken in larger doses than recommended.


Aspirin is taken for mild to moderate pain. It should be taken with caution if you suffer with indigestion, reflux or ulcers. The aspirin may affect the way your blood clots and if you are taking anti-coagulants always check with your doctor before taking aspirin.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, are effective against moderate pain. They should be used at the lowest dose that improves your symptoms and only be used for a short time. These medicines may not be suitable for people with stomach troubles, heart problems, kidney impairment, high blood pressure or asthma. You should consult your doctor if you need to take these drugs for more than one week.

Other medicines

Pain caused by osteoarthritis may respond to treatment with glucosamine and/or chondroitin. Research has shown that only 40% of people will respond to this treatment and if there has been no relief after 2 to 3 months of treatment then this medication is not going to work for you. The long-term benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin are unclear.

When using over-the-counter medicines

Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about the best options for you before buying any over-the-counter medicines. This is particularly important if you suffer from any other medical conditions, such as stomach, kidney, liver or heart problems.

To ensure the safest and most effective pain management from these medicines, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the location of the pain and how long you have had it. The pain may be due to a disease or injury which requires investigation.

When you speak with your doctor and pharmacist ask about possible side effects of the treatment and whether a particular pain management approach is right for you

If you are taking other medicines always ask whether the over-the-counter medicine will interact with any of these and always add over-the-counter medicines to your Medicines List to help you keep track of the drugs you are taking.

Ask your pharmacist or doctor for the CMI leaflet for your medicine which will give you important facts to know before, during and after taking your medicine.

Information is available from the National Prescribing Service website and you can print the Medicine List from this site.



The Australian Pain Management Association Ltd. (APMA) is a health promotion charity providing advocacy, information and practical support for people living with chronic (persistent) pain and their families. APMA is the consumer health organisation for all Australians who live with pain. APMA is your voice.


Contact Us

1300 340 357

sampleEmail: info@painmanagement.org.au

Australian Pain Management Association Ltd. (APMA)Victory Offices
Level 10, 900 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, QLD 4006