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How Do Painkillers work?

How Do Painkillers work?

Painkillers are medicine or drug for relieving pain. They function by interfering with the transmission of signals that the brain perceives as pain by the nervous system. The way painkillers relieve within approximately 30 minutes of taking a painkiller is a mystery to many users. They wonder how the medicine they take in liquid, pill or chewable form reduces pain for example on the ear or leg yet the drug is taken orally without applying anything on the painful part.

Intercepting pain signals

Painkillers work by moving to the source of pain signal and stopping it. They manage the pain by infiltrating the body system to prevent the feeling of pain by working together with the following:

  • Cells
  • Body nerve endings
  • Nervous system
  • The brain

The body has numerous nerve endings in the tissues and skin. Some of the nerve endings can sense pain like that caused by a knock on the body part or burns. When something causes injuries or damages the body cells, they release chemicals known as prostaglandins.

These specialized nerve endings sense pain and are extremely sensitive to prostaglandins. When the cells release this chemical, the nerve endings respond by picking up the injury messages and resulting pain and transmitting it to the brain through the nervous system.

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They 'inform' the brain everything concerning the pain like the location and the extent to which it hurts for it to act. Painkilling drugs interfere with the messages in the brain, at the site of injury or in the spinal cord.

Preventing cells from releasing pain signal

A pain reliever such a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen prevents the cells from making and releasing prostaglandin after injury or damage to signal pain. When the cells fail to release the chemical, the brain will not receive the pain message quickly or clearly. The pain will become less severe or stop after some time if the cells do not release the chemical. Painkilling medicine like paracetamol (Acetaminophen in North America) works in the brain hence preventing pain.

NSAIDs are aspirin based over the counter medicine that almost everyone reaches for to relieve common types of pain such as a sore back or a headache.

Unlike narcotics or other painkilling medicine, aspirin drugs are workhorses that find the source of pain and act to stop it. Damage to the cells makes them release large quantities of the cyclooxygenase-2 enzyme that in turn produces chemical called prostaglandins that sends pain signals to the brain. They also make the damaged area to release fluid from the blood to protect the injured cells from a further beating by creating a cushion. The cushion is the inflammation and swelling that causes pains and aches. Aspirin dissolves in the stomach and travels through the bloodstream to the whole body. It plays its role at the site of cell damage by binding the cyclooxygenase-2 enzymes and preventing them from producing prostaglandins. The cells cannot transmit more pain signals without prostaglandins. Although they still have the damage, it leaves them blissfully unaware.

Stopping inter-cell pain messages

Doctors may prescribe stronger painkillers (opioids) than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for health problems that cause extreme pain or after an operation. Opioids are heavy duty drugs like codeine and morphine that physicians use to treat severe pain.

These pain relievers work by getting between the nerve cells to stop them from transmitting pain message between them. The signal will not get to the brain, and it prevents a person from feeling pain. They also work in mind by altering pain sensation in the brain.

These drugs do not kill pain but reduce and alter the perception by the user. They are more like optimistic friends who always encourage someone in trouble by showing that there is nothing wrong and if there is, a solution is available.

Pain causes unpleasant sensations, discomfort, and suffering but it is the body's way of communicating that is something is wrong. IT is essential to relieve pain using medicine, but the permanent relieve is to correct the problem. For example pain from a burn signal that there is tissue damage. Using pain relievers stops the pain although the appropriate action is to treat the burn.