For some people with migraine pain, some prescription medications work, some don't. The same with over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
A new study confirms what many pain sufferers know: One kind of pain medication doesn't fit all.
Oxford University scientists analyzed the medical records of about 45,000 patients. They found people have genetic differences in pain receptors, which means everyone feels different levels of effectiveness and side effects.
"The reason that there are several dozen anti-inflammatories, the non-steroidal drugs that most people are aware of, like Motrin, Aleve, Celebrex, is just because there is so much individual variation," says Dr. Hilary Fausett, Glendale Adventist Medical Center, a pain-management specialist.
Fausett says pain relief for her patients often comes after a period of trying different strategies. And the biggest mistake most pain sufferers make is taking a drug for too long time, then trying higher does when the effects wear off.
"Sometimes you're better off switching to a drug that has a slightly different effect on your receptor, and you're using a slightly lower dose, you'll be more comfortable, and your risk of side effect will be much, much less," says Fausett.
She recommends patients have an honest and open dialogue with their doctors. Don't be afraid to tell them what works and what doesn't.
Fausett says with more research like this, physicians may one day be able to take a saliva sample, get a genetic profile and come up with a list of medications that would work for you.