Pain and Painkillers
A article about painkillers use, types, how they work and side effects
Which painkiller do I need, How painkilllers work, painkillers side afffect, painkiller types
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Pain and Painkillers

Pain and Painkillers

What are the types, how do they work?

It may be a surprise to know that nearly 1 in 5 people are thought to suffer constant pain. If you happen to be one of these people or fortunate enough to only have experience  single episodes of intense pain, you probably have visited your GP or local Pharmacy and been advised or prescribed to take some form of pain killing medication. After overcoming the hurdle of deciding what sort of painkiller will be effective for your symptoms you then have the challenge of filtering through all the different brands (Tip: FORGET ABOUT THE BRAND, THE ACTIVE CHEMICAL AND DOSAGE IS MOST IMPORTANT)

For the reasons above along with the side effects experienced, many people say to me that they “do not like taking painkillers” and “only take them as a last resort” (which is also what they say about deciding see an osteopath for the first time!)

With this in mind, it is a good idea to get a basic understanding of painkillers…

The different types:

Although there are many names with many claims most prescribed pain killers come under 3 categories

  • Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) – such as ibuprofen, naproxen and Aspirin
  • Non Opioids – Paracetamol
  • Opioids –  Strong opioids include: Morphine and Tramadol1

Weak opioids; Codeine (co-codamol is combination of codeine and paracetamol)

These can come in range of different way: tablet, ointment, liquid etc. so feel free to ask a healthcare professional which is best for you

Depending on the source determined to be causing your pain, Doctors may prescribe antidepressants or antiepileptic medication; this is because they have also been found to ease nerve pain separate to treating depression.

The way they work, when to use:


With a clue in the name these drugs change the way the body reacts to pain and inflammation. They are often advised/prescribed when there is pain with swelling such as arthritis and after a sports injuries like sprains. This aims to reduced further irritation caused by inflammation.


These drugs can be very effective for managing severe pain.  They are thought to work by blocking signals in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal chord) reducing the sensation.

  • Weak Opioids will often be advised when ibuprofen or paracetamol has not worked.
  • Strong Opioids are used when dealing with more severe problems such as cancer pain or major trauma.


???… The UK’s most popular and well known painkiller still has an air of mystery surrounding it when it comes to understanding exactly how it works. Like Opioids it has been suggested that it may block signals from the spinal chord and brain. These over-the-counter drugs usually are taken when suffering from a fever or when feeling mild aches.


Side effects:

Each drug will have it’s own list of side effects and many will also interact with other medication that your taking so it is always good to go through them with GP or Pharmacist to make sure you take safest and most effective pain killer for you.

The most common side effects include:

  1.  Upset stomach
  2.  Constipation
  3. Addiction – This is especially true of Opioids therefore you should never take more than prescribed and if you feel you are having to depend on pain killing medication then it is time to speak to your GP

Whilst not common permanent Liver and Kidney damage can occur, especially if drugs are abused or taken for a prolonged period of time; this is why painkillers should only be used short term to manage pain.

Getting to the root cause:

The key to being pain free is to get to the root cause of the problem, whilst they can provide some relief, painkillers simply can’t do this. Often the root of the problem can be addressed without the need for invasive interventions such as surgery. Part of all Osteopathic examinations will focus on identifying the root cause of your symptoms, so if you are in pain want to get to the bottom come and see us.

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