In a recent study conducted to test the effectiveness of pain medication researchers found that only about one-third of patients who took one dose of aspirin or acetaminophen experienced a reasonable amount of pain relief.
No one pain medication is effective for all patients; some like codeine are effective in as few as 14%of cases. Researchers hoped to get a better understanding of which medications are effective and for what conditions in an effort to help doctors advise their patients better on pain management.
To conduct their study researchers looked at 350 previous studies on pain medication that involved 45,000 people and 50 drugs or drug combinations. To determine which medications were effective the study defined good pain relief as a reduction of pain by half for 4 to 6 hours. Researchers from the University of Oxford poured over 35 reviews in the Cochrane Library regarding studies in which patients were given different pain medications or placebos to treat post operation pain, mostly from having wisdom teeth removed.
Aside from whether the medication could reduce pain by 50% or not researchers also took into consideration how many people would have to take a medication for 1 person to experience good pain relief. Ibuprofen scored well with a 1 in 2.5 ration where as codeine was only effective for 1 in 12 people. The winners of the study were a combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen and etoricoxib which both had a 70% rate of effectiveness.
The bottom line is there is no one size fits all approach to pain management and no medication is universally effective. The better we understand how effect different pain medications are the better doctors will be able to devise pain management regimens for their patients.