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Suppository for pain relief

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 4 minutes read
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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 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. This makes it a suitable alternative for people who are afraid of needles or can't take medications by mouth.

Doctor’s advice

Acetaminophen suppositories

Acetaminophen is a common over–the–counter painkiller. Acetaminophen suppositories 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 acetaminophen by mouth in the form of tablets or syrup.

Other suppositories for pain relief

Diclofenac sodium is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) pain reliever. It comes in different forms including tablets, capsules, suppositories and topical gel. However, the only over-the-counter formulation available is 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?

Rectal Suppositories in Children

Pediatric Formulations - Suppositories are often used in pediatric medicine, especially for children who may have difficulty swallowing pills or have an aversion to oral medications. Pediatric formulations of rectal suppositories are available for conditions such as fever, pain, or constipation.

Elderly Patients

Ease of Administration - For elderly individuals who may have difficulty swallowing pills or may experience nausea with oral medications, rectal suppositories can offer an alternative, more easily administered route. Elderly patients may be prone to constipation, and certain rectal suppositories containing stool softeners or laxatives may be recommended to alleviate this issue.

Patients with Gastrointestinal Issues

Reduced Gastrointestinal Absorption - Some individuals with gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis, may have compromised gastrointestinal absorption. In such cases, suppositories may be considered to bypass the digestive system and deliver medications directly to the affected area.

Post-Surgical Use

Immediate Postoperative Period - In the immediate postoperative period, patients may experience difficulty with oral intake due to factors such as nausea, pain, or surgery-related restrictions. Suppositories can be a viable option for delivering medications without reliance on the oral route.

Patients with Swallowing Difficulties

Dysphagia - Individuals with dysphagia, a condition characterized by difficulty swallowing, may find it challenging to take oral medications. Suppositories offer an alternative route for drug administration, ensuring that the medication is effectively delivered.

Emergency Situations

Administration in Emergency Settings - In emergency situations where swift drug administration is crucial, rectal suppositories may be used when oral administration is not feasible. This is especially relevant for conditions such as seizures or acute pain.

Hospice or Palliative Care

Comfort Measures - In hospice or palliative care settings, suppositories may be employed for comfort measures, such as administering pain - relieving medications or managing symptoms in a way that is gentle and minimally intrusive.

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 from melting. While inserting the suppository, you can use latex gloves or finger cots to protect your fingers. 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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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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