Dealing with pain is never easy. The suffering that this causes can affect us in our daily life, generating strong feelings of frustration, causing changes in our mood and interfering with our daily lives. Luckily there are drugs, such as tramadol, specially developed to relieve the lacerating pain caused by certain conditions such as fibromyalgia or any postoperative recovery.
In this article, we will analyze what tramadol is, what it is for and what its side effects are, as well as its main contraindications.
What is tramadol?
The generic drug known as tramadol is a drug in the family of opioids commonly used for the symptomatic treatment of moderate and moderate-severe pain. Its operation is similar to that of other analgesics such as paracetamol or ketorolac, and its action helps to modify the way in which our body feels and responds to pain.
Tramadol is administered orally, exerting a relatively fast effect thanks to its immediate release formulation. The first feelings of relief usually appear during the first hour after ingestion. It is also commonly used together with paracetamol, and its combined action improves the effectiveness of tramadol in the relief of pain. The mechanism of action of tramadol is the union of this element with a specific type of opioid receptor and acting as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Once dissolved in the organism it becomes an element known as desmetramadol, an extremely potent opioid.
Due to the strength with which tramadol acts in our body, its consumption should always be subject to the prescription of a health professional, which will adjust the dose to the needs of the patient. Although tramadol helps many people cope with pain, being an opiate drug carries a high risk of addiction, so its consumption should be supervised by a professional. The addictive potential is even more significant in those patients with a substance use disorder such as drug addiction or alcoholism.
What is it for?
As discussed above, tramadol is used in the treatment of any condition that presents with moderate or severe pain, whether it occurs acutely or chronically. Once administered, tramadol takes about an hour to take effect and can maintain pain relief until after 6 hours after consumption. To give us an idea of its strength of action, in single dose tramadol has about a tenth of the potency of morphine, being as effective as this in cases of moderate pain and just as effective as other drugs such as codeine and pethidine. For some years tramadol has been used as one of the main drugs in the treatment of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that is characterized by causing a generalized musculoskeletal pain in the sufferer, which is usually accompanied by a feeling of fatigue and constant fatigue, sleep, memory problems and alterations in mood. According to research, it is hypothesized that fibromyalgia produces an intense amplification of pain sensations by interfering with the way in which our brain processes pain signals. Usually, the first symptoms of fibromyalgia appear after some physical trauma, surgery, infection or after a long period of significant stress.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia causes a great variety of symptoms that can vary from person to person, the main sign being the experimentation of generalized pain. Next, we will describe what they are and precisely what the main types of symptoms of this disorder are: pain, fatigue, and cognitive problems.
The personal pain of fibromyalgia is distinguished by being a dull and constant pain that lasts for at least three months. To be considered as a widespread pain this must appear on both sides of the body and both higher and lower levels.
Patients with fibromyalgia often report a feeling of constant fatigue. They usually wake up tired despite having slept for long periods. However, it is ubiquitous for sleep cycles to be interrupted by pain, causing sleep disturbances and disorders such as restless legs syndrome.
Finally, other symptoms of fibromyalgia include problems of attention and concentration, as well as alterations in memory and difficulties in carrying out menial tasks. This set of symptoms is commonly known as “fog” or “mental fog.”
Also, in many cases, fibromyalgia coexists with other diseases or painful conditions such as:
Migraines and different types of headaches
Irritable bowel syndrome
Interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome
Disorders of the temporomandibular joint
A quick consultation to the presentations in the tramadol vademecum returns us more than 70 different presentations under the commercial names of Adolonta (Grünenthal), Ceparidin (Arafarma), Gelpar, Dolotradol (Ferrer), Tioner (Gebro Pharma), Tradonal (Meda Pharma ), Zytram (Mundipharma) …
In addition to generic drugs that include tramadol manufactured by laboratories such as Aristo, Medical Asta, Cinfa, Kern Farma, Norman, Ratiopharm, Teva or Sandoz. Whatever their trade name, they all have similar indications, similar effects and have the same contraindications and recommendations for use.
When to take tramadol? Indications
It is an “all-terrain” medication. It is indicated for neuropathic pain as well as sciatica as well as nociceptive pain (osteoarthritis) and mixed pain such as chronic low back pain. Tramadol allows moderate pain to be controlled well and at small doses. By having less active substance concentration, the Tramadol / Paracetamol presentations will enable us to make a better adjustment of the frequency of intake to the degree of pain each day.
How to take tramadol? Recommendations
Remember that it is an opioid analgesic – weak, less potent than others – but that like any opioid it has its rules of use.
DO NOT TAKE MORE DOSE BY YOUR ACCOUNT OR WITH DIFFERENT FREQUENCY THAN WHAT YOUR DOCTOR HAS RECOMMENDED. Tramadol may not eliminate your pain but will reduce it in part, making it more bearable. Always consult your doctor. Self-medication with this drug can be harmful to your health.
START THE TREATMENT WITH VERY LOW DOSE, AND if you need it, your doctor will establish a progressive plan until you get an improvement without suffering adverse effects. Less is more, better start with low doses until the next visit to the doctor.
IF YOU REDUCE THE DOSAGE OF THE TRAMADOL (OR YOU ELIMINATE IT) DO IT PROGRESSIVELY. Do it slowly, with very progressive partial reductions every week or two weeks to eliminate it ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS with close control and follow-up of your family doctor or your pain specialist … never for your account and risk! This way you will avoid the dreaded withdrawal syndrome due to the abrupt suspension of opioids.
Do not take tramadol if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or if you are under 16 years old or have an allergy or hypersensitivity to opioids. Nor should you make it if you have severe respiratory failure, liver problems or suffer from epilepsy and your doctors are not controlling it.
Tramadol and Side effects
Like most drugs, tramadol can cause a series of unwanted side effects. These side effects can be divided into severe or not serious according to the extent to which they can compromise the physical health or even the life of the patient. In any of the cases, if the patient experiences any significant side effect it is necessary to contact his doctor so that he adjusts the dose of tramadol, but under no circumstances can the patient modify the treatment on his own.
Otherwise, all kinds of adverse reactions can occur due to the sudden interruption of treatment. These reactions typical of withdrawal syndrome include nervousness, panic attacks, sweating, nausea and even hallucinations of any kind.
Not serious side effects
Headaches or a headache
States of nervousness
Uncontrollable trembling and no apparent cause in any part of the body
Gastric issues such as heartburn or indigestion
Serious side effects
If any of these side effects appear, the patient should contact their doctor immediately.
Skin disorders such as hives, rash or blisters
Inflammation in eyes, face, throat, tongue, lips, hands, feet or legs
Alterations in menstruation
Precautions during consumption
Before starting treatment with tramadol, the patient must inform the medical staff if they suffer from any allergy or particular health condition, as well as if they are taking any other medication, natural complexes or vitamin supplements. There are some conditions or physical conditions that can be aggravated by the use of tramadol. These conditions include:
Brain disorders such as injuries or tumors
Respiratory problems such as asthma, sleep apnea, or obstructive pulmonary disease
Kidney or liver diseases
Addiction or confusion due to substance use
Stomach or intestinal problems
It has also been shown that in patients with severe mental disorders or mood-related tramadol can enhance suicidal ideation so that the administration of the drug in these patients should be actively supervised by a medical professional. Due to its opiate nature, tramadol can cause severe dizziness and drowsiness.
Based on this, the driving or use of heavy machinery is discouraged for the duration of the treatment. In the same way, the consumption of alcoholic beverages should also be avoided. Finally, tramadol can cross the placenta and be excreted with breast milk, causing possible harm to the baby. Therefore, the administration of tramadol during pregnancy and lactation should be restricted to cases where it is necessary.