During the Holy Month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from eating and drinking during this period. Other actions or activities that could invalidate their fast are also avoided, and this can include taking medications.
While exemptions are made during Ramadan for those individuals who are sick or too unwell to fast, those who are healthy and fasting refrain from taking medications such as painkillers, during daylight hours. Any medications that need to be ingested, like tablets, are considered to break the fast.
Common sources of pain
Pain is a common reason for using medication. Even for healthy individuals, pain often occurs without warning, for instance in the form of a headache. While headaches may be unavoidable, certain lifestyle factors can trigger their onset. Identifying these triggers can help to reduce the need or frequency of taking pain medication.
Headaches, particularly during Ramadan, are often caused by dehydration. This can be countered by consuming adequate amounts of fluids, ideally water, when not fasting. Poor diets can also trigger headaches, so opt for healthier food options rather than fried, carb-heavy or sugar-loaded dishes at iftar and suhoor.
Muscular pain can also occur unexpectedly, often as the result of overexertion. During Ramadan, exercise should be modified to be less strenuous to help minimize the chance of straining, tearing or pulling muscles.
Reducing stress or avoiding situations that cause stress may also help to limit the occurrence or intensity of pain.
Pain management without medication
There are alternatives for treating pain without the use of medication, these tend to tackle pain management from either a physical or a psychological perspective. Exercise, in the form of yoga, light walking or stretching/strengthening, can be helpful in dulling muscular pain. It also helps to strengthen the body and provide a distraction to the mind.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation and to an extent yoga are designed to provide techniques for coping with chronic pain. This can be particularly beneficial for those who suffer from sudden intense bouts of pain, or those who experience varying levels of pain throughout the day. Through therapy, pain triggers are identified and techniques are developed to manage these triggers and to modify responses to pain.
Managing medication for chronic pain
For those dealing with chronic pain, the need to take pain medication during Ramadan may be unavoidable. While those who are sick are exempt from fasting, if you are considered healthy enough to fast, arrange to see your doctor to discuss any possible changes that can be made to your current medication schedule. It may be that the dosage, frequency, timing or administration of medication can be adjusted for the month of Ramadan.
The key to tackling chronic pain during Ramadan is to plan ahead. Consult your doctor at the earliest opportunity to explore treatment options and to avoid any sudden adjustments or disruptions to your pain management program. A meeting with your religious counselor may also help to identify other ways for you to complete your fast.