Why didn't my doctor give me a prescription for pain?

Dr. Saira George

If you’re experiencing pain and you visit a WVU Urgent Care location, it’s important to know that sometimes the best course of action isn’t always medication first. WVU Urgent Care physician Saira George, MD, discusses diagnosis and treatment for pain and why you may not receive a prescription at your initial clinic visit.

For mild to moderate pain from a fall, sprain, or cut, the goal is to try to control the pain symptoms while allowing the body to mend itself. At your visit, you may also need an x-ray to look for fractures or dislocations, or a provider can rule out these conditions during the exam.

For these types of injuries, resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the wounded area (RICE) can relieve pain, limit swelling, and speed healing. If needed, we’ll stabilize the injury with splinting, wrapping, or taping, so the wounded area is protected and shielded from further injury. Occasionally, even the act of stabilizing the injury can provide some pain relief.

Non-drug and non-opioid therapies (medications, but not narcotics) are recommended as the first course of treatment for mild to moderate pain by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Besides utilizing RICE during the first 24-48 hours after an injury, other non-drug therapies may include exercise, stretching, physical therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic treatment, and acupuncture.

Acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the first line of medications for pain. Many NSAIDs are available over-the-counter, but more potent versions can be prescribed if the pain is more severe. You may need to see your primary care provider, who can consider stronger medications, including opioids, if appropriate. It's important to know that opioid/narcotic medications, while effective, may impair judgment, cause drowsiness, interact with other medications, and also increase the risk that you may become dependent on them. You and your primary care provider can work together to avoid or minimize these side effects.

If you visit WVU Urgent Care for severe pain, the first step would be to rule out a life-threatening condition, which may involve a trip to the emergency department. If you’re dealing with chronic pain, the best person to help you is your primary care provider or a pain management specialist. WVU Urgent Care will not prescribe pain medications for chronic pain for many reasons, but mainly because anyone with chronic pain should establish care with a physician who will be able to monitor their progress over a long period of time.

Visit a WVU Urgent Care location or make an appointment: 855-WVU-CARE