See How Painkillers Work in Your Brain and Body

Interesting Engineering

Have a headache? Down a painkiller. Back ache? Pop an aspirin. Shoulder hurting you? Take an Advil. These instances happen daily as we thank our painkiller of choice for literally killing our aches. But how do they work, and how do they target the pain?

What is Pain?

Pain is a communication tool for the body. Pain works as as warning sign, flagging the brain to a problem somewhere that needs to be quickly fixed.

Researchers say simple hangover headaches are caused after your brain gets "attacked" and overwhelmed by the alcohol levels in the body. Normally, chugging a bunch of water cures the dehydration headaches, but often painkillers are brought in to speed up the process.

How do they work?

Once a pain reliever is swallowed, it's absorbed and travels to the affected areas to block the chemicals that send pain pulses to nerve cells and thus to your brain.

how-painkillers-work[Image Courtesy of Pixabay]

There are different types of pain relievers of varying levels of efficiency.

"NSAIDs don’t actually “know” where the pain is, but they only work on areas associated with inflammation aka where pain usually is. They work by making it harder for your body to make the enzymes that help produce those prostaglandins. That helps with the pain, too." says pain expert Ted Price, Ph.D., a professor of behavioral and brain sciences at the University of Texas.

how-painkillers-work2[Image Courtesy of Public Access/Abington Journal]

Narcotic drugs as like prescription painkillers as like hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, meperidine, and propoxyphene are really powerful drugs that interfering with the nervous system’s transmission of the nerve signals we perceive as pain. Thus, they not only block the pain; they induce a “high” as well.

While most painkillers are available over the counter, some aches need a little more attention. Always ask a doctor or pharmacist for the best route given your specific injuries. As with any medication, only take those prescribed to you to avoid adverse side effects.

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