Written By Madeleine Bailey

We ask Lloyds Pharmacist Anshu Bhimbat for her advice on tackling five of the most common causes of pain…


Half the population has had a headache over the past year with an unlucky one in 20 suffering almost every day, according to the World Health Organization. Our pharmacist Anshu Bhimbat explains: “Tension is the main cause of headaches but many things, including dehydration, poor posture, sensitivity to foods or smells, eyestrain, toothache, earache or even missed sleep can trigger them.”

What’s the best treatment?

Ask your pharmacist’s advice about over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or co-codamol – a combination of paracetamol and codeine. (Please note: because codeine is potentially addictive, it shouldn’t be taken for more than three days in a row.)

“It’s also important not to take painkillers on more than 15 days per month as this can cause headaches from medication overuse,” explains Anshu. A drug-free option such as the 4head Effective Headache Relief Stick, helps to block pain signals when applied to your forehead.

Other advice for combatting headaches includes, “drinking plenty of water, checking your posture and addressing stress with regular relaxation and exercise,” she adds.

If you’re getting headaches on more than 15 days per month, you’ve had a recent head injury, the pain is sudden or severe, or you have other, unexplained symptoms, you should see your GP.


Around one in seven people suffer from migraine. This is a neurological condition, which usually involves a severe headache, often with nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light or sound and sometimes visual disturbances. Interestingly, some people don’t experience a headache with a migraine but get all the other symptoms. It’s twice as common in women than men, and can be triggered by certain foods, hormonal changes and emotional stress, among many other things.

What’s the best treatment?

Sumatriptan is an over-the-counter drug specially designed for migraines, but you should ask your pharmacist if it’s suitable for you first. There’s also Migraleve Pink, a combination of paracetamol, codeine and anti-sickness medication,” explains Anshu.

Another good tip is to keep a diary to help you spot your triggers. This can go a long way to helping you manage your condition.

(Please note: you should see your GP if you need to use migraine medication on more than 10 days a month, symptoms have suddenly started, become worse, or you have new symptoms.)


An estimated 80% of people will get backache at some point in their lives. The most common causes include strains from lifting, poor posture or sitting for long periods.

What’s the best treatment?

“Apply a cold pack to an injury right away to reduce inflammation. Then, after two to three days, apply a hot pack to improve blood flow and encourage healing,” says Anshu.

Research shows that too much rest makes backache worse, so avoid the temptation to keep still and try some gentle movement and stretching to keep you mobile. You should ask your local pharmacist’s advice on over-the-counter painkillers or gels, or for a drug-free option, try ActiPatch Back Pain Relief Kit, which uses electromagnetic pulse therapy to combat pain. (See your GP if the pain doesn’t improve despite treatment.)

LloydsPharmacy Hot and Cold Pack

Joint pain

Injury and arthritis are the main causes of painful joints. The joints are prone to wear and tear as we age, which can lead to osteoarthritis. According to the NHS this is the most common type of arthritis and affects eight million people in the UK.

What’s the best treatment?

If you have injured or sprained the joint, “rest the limb for 48 to 72 hours after an injury,” says Anshu. “Use a cold pack for 15-20 minutes every two to three hours during the day. Bandage it to contain swelling and keep it raised if possible.” It’s best to start using the joint soon to keep it mobile, but see your GP if there’s no improvement.

Your GP can advise on the best painkillers for arthritis, but you can also use drug-free treatments such as Flexiseq Gel, which lubricates the joints, and the ActiPatch Joint Pain Relief Kit, which uses electromagnetic pulse therapy to reduce inflammation and combat pain. For more information on managing arthritis, visit: Arthritis Research UK.

Flexiseq Gel

Stomach pain

Stomach ache is usually short-lived and caused by trapped wind, indigestion or constipation. Food poisoning can sometimes be the problem, in which case you’ll also experience diarrhoea and possibly vomiting.

However, pain, bloating, wind, diarrhoea and constipation that occur regularly can be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects 10-20% of us. It has no specific cause but is often made worse by stress or intolerance to certain foods.

Sometimes stomach pain can be a sign of more serious conditions such as appendicitis, stomach ulcer, inflammatory bowel disease, or even cancer.

What’s the best treatment?

“Your pharmacist can advise on over-the-counter treatment for diarrhoea, constipation, indigestion and vomiting,” says Anshu. But you should see your GP to investigate any unexplained and ongoing symptoms. If serious conditions are ruled out, you may be diagnosed with IBS. Buscopan IBS Relief is an over-the-counter medication that can help with painful cramps, plus the IBS Network has lots of advice about how to manage the symptoms, including stress relief and diets that can help you pinpoint problem foods.

How else can Lloyds Pharmacy help?

We don’t think you should have to put up with pain. That’s why we offer a free Pain Management Service.

Find your local Lloyds Pharmacy here.

Ask your pharmacist what medication would suit you best, how much, how often and when to take your pain relief medication. Always read the label and never exceed the dosage stated on the packet.