How Do Pain Pills Actually Work?

Pain is essentially one of the most common body discomforts. Whether it is a mild headache, migraine, finger injury, a toothache, burn, or a sprained ankle, you need to take some pain medication. Pain relievers are the most prescribed medications. However, it is fascinating how a particular pill can relieve your pain in a matter of seconds or minutes. Here, we will tell you all about pain medications and how they work.

Understanding Painkillers

What are painkillers? This is one of the most basic questions that you might have. Essentially, painkillers are drugs used to treat or relieve pain. Normally, painkillers are available through a large number of brands and suppliers. Types of painkillers include:

  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • Liquid syrup
  • Injection
  • Suppositories – for instance, the back passage painkillers.

Despite a large number of brands and types, painkillers exist only in three main categories. These are:

  • NSAIDs. Also known as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, these painkillers include diclofenac, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Though Asprin is also an NSAID, it is usually prescribed in low doses to help in preventing the blood from clotting.
  • Paracetamols
  • Strong and weak opioids. Also called opiates, these painkillers include dihydrocodeine and codeine. Though you will find your doctor describing them as weak opioids, they are very effective in their pain relief to function. However, due to their effectiveness, they can also become very addictive. Many people have been known to abuse these pain-relieving drugs. Strong opioids include oxycodone, pethidine, morphine, and tramadol. Normally, strong opioids are prescribed for people with severe pain or who are resistant to normal pain medication. Now, depending on the prescription and pain-relieving factors, you might find different painkillers combined into one tablet. A good example would be paracetamol combined with codeine to give a ‘co-codamol’ pain pill. Your doctor can also prescribe anti-epileptic or antidepressants to relieve your pain apart from these conventional pain medications.

How They Work?

To better understand how these pain pills work, we will describe their mode of operation depending on their general category: NSAIDs, Paracetamol and Opioids.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

They technically don’t relieve your pain by ‘travelling’ to the affected area when you take them. Essentially, NSAIDs work by inhibiting – also referred to as blocking – the effects of particular chemicals or enzymes. These enzymes – cyclo-oxygenase or COX – are responsible for producing chemicals that are responsible for the pain. Normally, when COX enzymes are activated, they lead to inflammatory enzymes called prostaglandins on the affected area.

Now, with painkillers, the COX enzymes are blocked, and therefore the prostaglandins are reduced. Consequently, inflammation is eased, and your pain goes away. It is, however, worthwhile noting that not all NSAIDs work similarly. Normally, NSAIDs are mainly prescribed for people with inflammation or pain. For instance, if you have arthritis – pain in the joints – or are experiencing back pain, your health care provider is bound to prescribe NSAID pills.

Typically, this is because you could be experiencing both pain and inflammation. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs are, however, not suitable for everyone since they have some particular side effects. Usually, if you have had stomach ulcers or are currently experiencing them, your doctor is more likely to prescribe safer options such as paracetamols. Other options might not be as effective but give you a better experience in the long run. For joint, ligament, and muscle pain treatment, NSAIDs can be used together with ice treatment.


There is inadequate information on the mode of operation of paracetamol pain pills. However, researchers say these pain relievers may work by blocking COX enzymes in your central nervous system and brain. Typically, paracetamols are used in the treatment of pain and lowering of high temperatures. However, they are not usually recommended for inflammation treatment.


Unlike other pain medications that work by preventing inflammation enzymes, Opioids are essentially opioid receptor inhibitors. Now, your central nervous system – the spinal cord – has opioid receptors that control how you experience and feel pain. In addition, these receptors control your tolerance and reaction to pain. Therefore, when you take an opioid pain killer, your pain experience decreases, and you get more tolerance. Generally, if you have tried NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or diclofenac and your pain does not get to dissipate, your doctor will prescribe weak opioids. Stronger opioids, on the other hand, are for extremely severe pain such as that experienced by people who have cancer.

Pain pills are a great way to restore your bodily comfort. However, it would be best to be careful not to become dependent on them since some cause addiction. You should also not use pain killers for other purposes since it can lead to drug abuse and probable drug addiction. For more, Contact us today at 844-639-8371.

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