How Do Painkillers Work?

As it is very evident from the name, painkillers are drugs that treat or diminish pain in the human body. There are different types of painkillers available in the market. But then how do painkillers work? How should one take the medicine? Are there any side effects? These may all be the questions on your mind.

Painkillers can either be injected into the body, for example morphine can be injected into the body to alleviate pain, or they can be taken orally such as Paracetamol which can be consumed to diminish small pains. Oral medications can come in syrup form, capsules or tablets. Some painkillers are also injected into the body via the rectum passage. These medicines are referred to as suppositories. If your skin or muscles are in pain then you can also apply ointment or some cream that will serve the purpose of a painkiller.

Painkillers can be categorized into three types:

  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)
  • Paracetamol
  • Opioids

These three different types of painkillers work in different ways. Usually people take painkillers for short amounts of time, during which the medicine provides relief from the pain at hand. Sometimes, however, there is an unfortunate accident which demands prolonged use of painkillers.

How Do Painkillers Work?

Painkillers are best at fighting pain that is either mild or moderate. Their purpose and result is similar, but the process through which they rid the body of pain is completely different from one another.

1. Paracetamol

Paracetamol is targeted for the brain and it works by stopping the production of pain from the source. It reduces the production of inflammatory substances and chemicals in the brain, which are usually referred to as prostaglandins. These inflammatory chemicals can be found anywhere in the body but they are concentrated in the brain. Paracetamol can be helpful in relieving a person of pain and even fever.


NSAIDs are drugs that are inclusive of aspirin and ibuprofen and they have a completely different work process than Paracetamol. These medicines cease the production of prostaglandins just as Paracetamol, but instead of targeting the brain, they target the prostaglandins present throughout the human body. This makes them effective; however, the side effect of this type of medication is that since they target the prostaglandins in the body instead of the brain, they end up affecting the different bodily functions and organs as well. So if you are trying to relieve yourself of stomach pains then, the NSAIDs will target the lining of your stomach which can go either way.

3. Opioids

This type of medication is something that targets the receptors in the human body. These receptors are found in the central nervous system and the gut. They are also found in some other important parts of the body. Opioids increase your tolerance for pain and they also work at reducing the pain your body is experiencing.

How toTake Painkillers

When you are facing some kind of pain or trouble, then it is advised that you regularly take painkillers for a designated period of time. Do not skip dosage and do not take them at a whim because painkillers work in a specific way. However, if your pain is a onetime thing (such as a headache) you can take it only once to alleviate the pain at hand.

However, always be sure to eat something before you take a painkiller such as Paracetamol or NSAID. These medicines are strong and they will end up having an adverse effect on your stomach if you do not exercise precaution before consuming them. Your stomach may even face strong pressure and internal bleeding in your stomach may be caused if you take painkillers without eating something first.

How Long Will the Treatment Last?

Try to limit the use of painkillers to shorter periods of time, because taking painkillers for longer durations may have adverse effects on your body. Take painkillers for the purpose of alleviating pain; and when the problem has been cured, stop taking them instantly. There are some instances, such as arthritis, in which you have to continue the use and consumption of painkillers, but do not do so without first consulting a medical expert.

Possible Side Effects of Painkillers

How do painkillers work? When you understand this, it is also important to have some idea of the possible side effects of painkillers. Never assume that some medications do not have any side effect. Every type of medicinal drug has its own set of side effects. Mostly side effects only occur when medicines are taken in large doses without the suggestion of a medical expert. Sometimes the combinations of two or three different kinds of medicines may also produce wrong results. Here are some of the side effects of the painkillers listed below:


NSAIDs do not have any life threatening or harmful side effects but it can still cause you to suffer from minor side effects. However, in extreme and rare cases, you can suffer from:

  • Bleeding of the stomach
  • Bleeding of the gut
  • Cardiovascular problems

2. Paracetamol

Generally speaking, Paracetamol is a safe medicine to consume if you follow the instruction and take proper amount. However, its side effects may occur due to prolonged use or an overdose of the medicine, which may lead to permanent damage to your liver and people can die from this. Therefore, it is of super importance not to overuse the medicine.

3. Opioids

The most well-known side effects of this medicine are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • A Dry mouth
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness

For people who become dependent on Opioids, please discuss with your doctor when you need higher doses of the medicine to kill the pain.

Note: Interactions between painkillers and other medicines could be dangerous by resulting in reactions or interfering the effectiveness of the treatment. Do tell your doctor about what medicines you are taking when prescribed painkillers.

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