Over-the-Counter Pain Remedies for Parkinson's Disease

Paris, FRANCE: Picture taken 10 June 2005 in Paris of commonly used painkillers medecines based on Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug. Credit: Jack Guez / Staff / Getty Images

Question: Do over-the-counter pain medications help in Parkinson's disease? If so, which ones should I take?

Answer: Pain is unfortunately an extremely common symptom in Parkinson's disease — up to 85% of people living with Parkinson's experience pain from their condition at some point.

Pain in Parkinson's disease can occur from rigid muscles, from constant tremors, or from falls or other injuries. Parkinson's patients most frequently experience pain in their necks, backs, arms and legs.

In some people, pain is one of their first symptoms, and could help lead to their diagnosis with the condition. In others, it doesn't occur until later. But regardless, it's something you want to manage, since it can interfere with your quality of life.

Pain Relievers and Other Options in Parkinson's

If you're in pain, your doctor may suggest you take over-the-counter pain relief medications such as Motrin (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen) or aspirin. These medications may work to relieve minor aches and pains that you experience from your Parkinson's disease due to immobility, stiffness and rigidity.

However, your doctor may want to try some other remedies first. These options include:

  • Adjusting your Parkinson's medications. Since pain can be caused by the muscle-related symptoms of Parkinson's disease, it's possible that it can be managed by adjusting the medications prescribed to manage those symptoms. Your doctor is the best judge of whether this is possible, and how to accomplish it.
  • Exercise. Again, most persistent pains in Parkinson's are due to the motor problems associated with the condition. An exercise program can help you alleviate those motor problems, which should in turn cause the accompanying aches and pains to diminish. Talk to your doctor about starting such an exercise program.

    Other options to treat pain in Parkinson's disease include: massage, physical therapy, stretching and physical therapy.

    Parkinson's Pain Can be Linked to Depression

    If exercise and/or adjusting your medications does not help with the pain, ask yourself and your doctor if you might be depressed. Pain in Parkinson's disease is linked to depression, and treating the depression may help to diminish any persistent pains. Depression affects about 40% of people with Parkinson's. In some cases, psychotherapy may alleviate pain from Parkinson's.

    If you don't have depression or if the pains persist after treating your symptoms of depression, then you may want to consider seeing a pain specialist before taking over-the-counter remedies. Pain control specialists have a whole array of pain control treatments and techniques, ranging from special medications to special surgical procedures, that are known to be effective.

    Sources:

    Ford, B. and Pfeiffer, R.F. (2005). Pain syndromes and disorders of sensation. In: Parkinson’s Disease and nonmotor dysfunction. R.F. Pfeiffer and I. Bodis-Wollner (Eds). Humana Press, Totowa, New Jersey. Pps. 255-270.

    Drake DF, Harkins S, Qutubuddin A (2005) Pain in Parkinson's disease: Pathology to treatment, medication to deep brain stimulation. NeuroReb 20:335 341.

    Parkinson's Disease Foundation. Pain fact sheet. Accessed Feb. 26, 2016.

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