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Suppository for pain relief

Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 26.01.2023 | 2 min read

There are several methods available for managing your pain- tablets, suspension, topical gel, patches and suppositories.

A suppository is a long, but small in size, capsule-shaped medicine that is inserted into the back passage (rectum). The suppository dissolves to release the medication into the body, and is absorbed by the local blood supply to the tissues. This may feel uncomfortable for a short time but it is an extremely effective way of relieving pain. Suppositories take about 30 minutes to work.

Suppositories may give pain relief to the local area, but can also be absorbed and travel to other parts of the body through the bloodstream for a general pain-relieving effect.

Paracetamol suppositories

Paracetamol is a common over–the–counter pain killer. They are available in various strengths and can be used in adults, children and infants for the treatment of mild to moderate pain such as a toothache or a high temperature (fever) when it is difficult to take paracetamol by mouth in the form of tablets or syrup, or who are being sick a lot.

Diclofenac suppositories

Diclofenac sodium is an anti-inflammatory pain reliever. It comes in different forms including tablets, capsules, suppositories and topical gel. However, the only formulation available over- the- counter is the topical gel. Suppositories are only available as prescription medication.

Diclofenac's anti-inflammatory effect works by blocking the body’s production of a substance called ‘prostaglandins’ which are released in response to illness or injury. Prostaglandins can cause pain and inflammation to notify the person they are unwell. By stopping prostaglandins production, they can stop the pain, inflammation and even fever.

Diclofenac suppositories can be prescribed as post-operative pain relief or for pain caused by conditions such as kidney stones.

Who is it for

Suppositories can be used in situations where you can't take a medication orally – such as if you are vomiting. They can also be used if fast-acting pain relief is needed, and are quite useful for certain conditions such as kidney stones as mentioned previously.

Helpful tips for using suppositories

Try not to empty your bowels for one hour after inserting the suppository (unless the suppository was a laxative - where that is the desired effect!). Avoid exercise or lots of movement for one hour.

Store the suppositories in a cool place to prevent them melting. You can use latex gloves or finger cots to protect your fingers while inserting the suppository. You can buy these at your local pharmacy. Consider trimming your fingernails to help prevent cuts and scratches while inserting the suppository.

Avoid using petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, to lubricate the suppository. It can keep the suppository from melting after it’s inserted.

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