What is a pain reliever?

Analgesia is the relief of pain, and an analgesic is something designed to relieve pain, usually in some medications used to combat swelling or pain. For a long time there has been a search for substances or treatments that help reduce pain. Ancient pain relievers included things like the leaves and bark of willow trees, which had a substance called salicin. Salicin derivatives eventually became one of the common pain relievers called aspirin.

Sometimes people describe a pain reliever as a medication designed only to mask pain but not to address its cause. This is an inexact definition. There are certain medications that relieve pain without curing or alleviating its source, such as many opioid pain relievers and over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen. Other medications can address the root cause of the pain; Anti-inflammatory medications can reduce the swelling that causes discomfort and don't just mask the pain or make it less noticeable by people.

There are numerous types of pain relievers and a myriad of drug delivery methods. Types of medications include opiates, such as codeine and hydrocodone, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Other medications have been found to be effective pain relievers, even if this was not their original design intent. Some tricyclic antidepressants may be useful in treating chronic pain, and some anticonvulsants have also shown benefit in this regard.

Medication delivery methods vary, from the simple business of taking an over-the-counter pill or suppository, to using skin patches that help medications reach the bloodstream faster, to injecting medication intravenously. Depending on the type of pain treated and its severity, one of these methods may be preferred over another. Alternatively, several methods can be used together to produce the most analgesic effect.

Because of the many different types of medications that have pain-relieving properties, it is difficult to discuss side effects or potential benefits as a whole. All medications and most medical treatments have side effects. Even putting an ice pack on your skin can cause pain or a tingling sensation.

It is easier to consider drugs by group. Here it can be said that NSAIDs can cause excessive bleeding and are inappropriate for some people, and drugs such as acetaminophen have been linked to liver damage when used in excess. Opioids tend to have high rates of addiction and care must be taken to prescribe only what is needed, and they also tend to create constipation. Certain pain relievers such as morphine can slow breathing and should be used very carefully with adequate respiratory support for ill or injured patients.

For people who are prescribed a pain reliever or buy one over the counter, it is important not to use more than is recommended by a doctor or on package labels. Side effects can be increased when medicines are used outside the recommended dose, and some can be dangerous. However, they are helpful, and when taken as recommended, many help promote greater comfort.

Go up