How to manage HIV pain

Getting help for chronic pain

People living with HIV are often chronic or long-term pain. However, the direct causes of this pain vary. The possible cause of the pain associated with HIV may help reduce treatment options, so it's important to talk about this symptom with a healthcare professional.

The relationship between HIV and chronic pain
People living with HIV may experience chronic pain due to infection or drugs that treat it. Some factors that can cause pain include:

inflammation and nerve damage caused by the infection
lowered immunity against the effects of HIV on the immune system
Side effects of anti-HIV drugs
The pain caused by HIV is often curable. However, the pain associated with HIV is often underestimated and not treated. Be open about this symptom allows health care providers to find the direct cause and coordinate a pain treatment plan that works with HIV treatment.

Finding the right treatment for pain associated with HIV
The treatment of chronic pain associated with HIV requires a delicate balance between pain and preventing complications. Many drugs HIV can interfere with drugs against pain and vice versa. In addition, pain associated with HIV may be more difficult to treat than other types of chronic pain.

Healthcare providers should consider the following factors when recommending treatment for HIV-related pain:

medications taken, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, supplements and herbal products
History of HIV treatment
history of medical conditions in addition to HIV
Some medications can increase sensitivity to pain in people living with HIV. Thus, a health care provider may first recommend stopping certain medications or reduce the dose to see if that helps to resolve pain.

However, a person with HIV should never stop taking prescription drugs without consulting their health care provider.

When stopping or reduction of certain drugs does not work or is not possible, one of these pain medications may be recommended:

non-opioid analgesics

mild analgesics can treat mild pain. Options include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin (Bufferin) or ibuprofen (Advil).

People who want to try these options should talk with a health care professional first. Excessive use of these drugs can cause damage to the stomach, liver or kidneys.

Topical anesthetics

Topical anesthetics, such as patches and creams may provide some relief in people with mild to moderate pain. But topical anesthetics can negatively interact with certain medications, so a healthcare professional should be consulted before use.


Opioids may temporarily relieve the symptoms to relieve moderate to severe pain associated with HIV. For most people, only a short course of opioids should be used to treat acute exacerbation of pain. Opioids are not recommended for chronic pain.

Many providers of health care are turning away from opiates because of their high potential for addiction and abuse. However, there are patients who receive adequate relief of opiates and not become addicted.

Ultimately, it is up to the patient and healthcare professional for a safe and effective drug to help their pain.

These types of drugs include:

oxycodone (Oxaydo, Roxicodone)
methadone (Methadose, Dolophine)
tramadol (Ultram)
The opioid therapy can be problematic for some people. Taking these prescription drugs is essential to avoid problems such as opiate abuse and addiction.

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