Pain Killer: Understanding the Different Types and How They Work

Pain Killer: Understanding the Different Types and How They Work

Many people face pain issues in their daily lives. The causes of pain can be different, but they provide the same discomfort to all people and can interrupt their daily routines. If you suffer from pain, you can try painkillers and their alternatives to treat your condition. In this blog, you will learn more about painkillers and their work.

Introduction to Painkillers

Painkillers are drugs that are generally used to treat pain. Painkillers help to relieve headachesarthritissore muscles, or other pains. There are three major types of painkillers:

  • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Opioids
  • Acetaminophen

Each of them acts differently.

What are the types of without-prescription painkillers?

A few of the most common kinds of OTC painkillers include:

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)

These painkillers are mainly used to treat pain and lower inflammation. Examples include ibuprofen, aspirin, diclofenac, and naproxen. NSAIDs are generally used for a short period. Few NSAIDs can be bought OTC (over the counter), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin.

Other NSAIDs are prescribed by your healthcare expert.


Acetaminophen is called a non-aspirin painkiller. It is not an NSAID. Acetaminophen treats mild to modest pain and decreases fever. It is frequently sold under the trade name Tylenol. It doesn’t treat inflammation. This drug doesn’t cause as many stomach issues as other painkillers do.

Acetaminophen is also safer for children. This drug is often prescribed for arthritis pain because it has fewer adverse reactions than other painkillers. A few examples of OTC brands of acetaminophen are Paracetamol, Tylenol, and Panadol.

How do Pain killers work?

There are several painkillers (as mentioned above). They all act differently.


NSAIDs act by blocking the production of specific chemicals in the body known as prostaglandins, which are involved in pain and inflammation. NSAIDs have the ability to lessen pain and inflammation by lowering the body’s production of prostaglandins.


Similar to NSAIDs, Acetaminophen acts by preventing the synthesis of prostaglandins. However, unlike NSAIDs, it has no anti-inflammatory properties.


Opioids act by binding to specific receptors in the spinal cord and brain known as opioid receptors. It blocks the transmission of pain signals and creates a euphoric sensation that can be habit-forming. It leads to a reduction in the way you feel pain and your perception of pain, and it raises your tolerance for pain.

Risks and side effects of Pain killers

Risks of Acetaminophen

There are a few risks associated with acetaminophen are:

Liver damage: The risk of liver damage from acetaminophen is greater if you consume more than 3,000 mg daily. You can also develop liver issues if you mix the medicine with alcohol.

Drug interactions: Acetaminophen may interact with other drugs, including OTC and prescription drugs, which may increase the risks of adverse reactions or other complications.

Other risks: Acetaminophen has been associated with a higher risk of asthma, mainly in children. It may also cause low blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. Long-term usage of acetaminophen has been associated with a greater risk of chronic kidney disease and BP (blood pressure).

Side effects of acetaminophen:

  • Itching, rash, hives
  • Swelling of the throat, eyes, face, ankles, tongue, or hands
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Hoarseness, peeling, red, or blistering skin

NSAIDs risks

Along with the positive outcomes, NSAIDs come with a few risks, such as:

Liver damage: NSAIDs have occasionally been linked to liver damage, mainly in people who drink alcohol daily or who already have liver issues.

Kidney damage: Long-term consumption of specific painkillers, mainly NSAIDs, may harm the kidney.

Interactions with other drugs: NSAID painkillers may interact with other drugs, including OTC drugs, prescription drugs, and herbal supplements.

Allergic reactions: Few people might have an allergic reaction to NSAIDs painkillers, which may range from mild to acute.

Gastrointestinal issues: NSAIDs may cause inflammation, irritation, or ulcers in the intestines and stomach. It may lead to perforation, gastrointestinal bleeding, and even death in a few cases.

Increased bleeding: NSAIDs may raise the risk of bleeding, mainly when used with other blood-thinning drugs or in high dosages.

Side effects of NSAIDs

  • Drowsiness, headaches
  • Allergic reactions, dizziness
  • Indigestion, stomach ulcers

Opioid risks

Opioids might be effective in treating pain, but they also come with a few risks, such as:

Withdrawal: When you suddenly stop taking opioids, you can experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal includes muscle aches, insomnia, anxiety, and nausea.

Addiction: Opioids might be habit-forming mainly if taken for a long duration or in higher doses. It might lead to a cycle of dependency where the person feels they require the medicine to function normally.

Overdose: Opioids may depress the CNS and slow down breathing. It might be harmful, mainly if someone consumes too much of the medicine or combines it with other substances.

Tolerance: Opioid users may eventually build up a tolerance, requiring higher doses to have the same effect.

Side effects of Opioids:

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Constipation, respiratory depression
  • Dizziness, sedation

Alternatives to Pain Killers

There are various alternatives to painkillers that may help treat pain. A few of them are:

Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a treatment that generally uses very thin steel needles inserted into the skin to stimulate particular points in the body. It helps to relieve pain. If you want to treat your pain effectively, you can take the help of acupuncture. It’s one of the best alternatives to painkillers.

Physical therapy: Physical therapy may assist in reducing pain and improving mobility via exercise and manual approaches. It is essential to work with a certified physical therapist and follow their recommendations to ensure the best results. It can also be an alternative to painkillers.

Cold and heat therapy: Applying cold or heat therapy to the impacted area may help reduce inflammation and pain. Heat therapy is mainly used to promote blood flow, decrease muscle stiffness, and calm tense muscles. It might be used for chronic conditions such as arthritis or severe injuries such as sprains or strains.

On the other side, cold therapy is used to treat pain, inflammation, and swelling. It might be applied using an ice bag or cold pack. Cold therapy is frequently used for severe injuries such as strains or sprains. It can also be helpful for chronic conditions, including arthritis. Cold and heat therapy is one of the best alternatives to painkillers.

Herbal remedies: Few herbs, such as ginger, turmeric, and willow bark, can treat pain. These herbs can help you to relieve pain effectively without any side effects.

Mind-body techniques: Mind-body techniques such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi might help lower stress and encourage relaxation. These may help ease the pain. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare specialist before using any of these alternatives to painkillers.


Hope! You have learned many essential details about painkillers. If you purchase painkillers from a relevant pharmacy, they may suggest a suitable medicine according to your pain condition. On the other hand, you can try those alternatives (above-mentioned) too.

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