Amateur Pain Management Through the Years

This is a guest post by Claire Hunt.

No pain. No gain. This popular axiom, usually associated with exercise and weight training, has never become accepted by the populace as a reasonable approach to anything else. Pain is bad, and people shouldn’t have to deal with it.

pain medication tablets


At the end of the 19th century, aspirin became readily available for incidental pain and fever. People felt aspirin could replace common remedies like hard liquor, heroine, morphine, or hemp. With the advent of a simple pill, people felt that they had truly entered the modern era.

Even though aspirin was hailed as a miracle drug, it was just a chemical version of the salicin found in white willow bark. Inside the body, salicin converts into salicylic acid, the chemical compound of aspirin. Unlike white willow bark, aspirin was convenient, cheap, and modern. The traditional herbalists were on their way out. Pills were the way to go.

Within a few years, people discovered that aspirin did relieve minor pain and fever but it also had side effects. It thinned the blood, and it could burn through the stomach and intestines. The main advantage of aspirin besides giving relief from pain and fever was that it did not pose a danger of addiction.


People in the 19th century recognized the dangers of opiates. Morphine, heroine, and even medications such as laudanum were readily available in local markets, right next to flour and eggs. They understand that opiates were for serious pain management, especially once a doctor sends someone home to die from cancer. At that time, addiction was not a major issue as most people were too busy trying to make a living to have time for recreational drug use. However, the opium dens found in large cities lured many people to their destruction.

For most of the 19th century, society had an easily available pain button that they could press without a prescription. Yet, even though society as a whole didn’t go nuts and turn into drug addicts, some did. To protect the less judicious from their own behavior, by the late 1800s, opiates were outlawed, except for medical purposes. This ended people’s ability to practice amateur pain management, except with aspirin and hard liquor. But even liquor was removed from the shelves in the U.S. from 1919 until 1933. During those years, amateur pain management consisted only of aspirin. This may have been part of the cause of the Great Depression.

Modern Pain Management

In the 21st century, OTC (over-the-counter) amateur pain management consists of aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen. These pills work for minor pain and fever, but are limited in their ability to treat severe pain. The only legal serious pain management available is through physicians. But even they recognize the dangers of pain management. They have solutions to your pain but have a difficult time dealing with your addiction afterwards. In New York State, prescription pain medication overdose recently surpassed auto accidents as a major cause of death. Consequently, doctors are more and more willing to let you suffer just a little rather than overprescribe effective, yet still dangerous pain medication.

Pain management is serious business. Even trained physicians recognize it as a tightrope act. Until we can isolate a specific pain and find out how to neutralize it without side effects, pain management will continue to be a difficult science. It is an art not suited for amateurs. If you are in pain, see your doctor. If you are addicted to amateur pain management through illegal drugs, alcohol, or prescription abuse, see your doctor. There are treatments for your condition.

Author Bio: Claire Hunt is a freelance writer and a nurse. She contributes articles to and several other medical websites. CIA Medical is a company that distributes branded medical supplies, like Terumo and Braun.

Photo credit: Courtesy of hitthatswitch via photopin cc

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