7, Feb 2024
Pain Relief Medications

There are many medicines for Pain Relief. Some are available without a prescription (such as paracetamol, the main ingredient in Tylenol). Others require a doctor’s prescription to get higher doses or combinations of medications.

Menstrual cramps can be treated with over-the-counter medications. They also treat minor pains such as headaches. Prescription medicines are used for moderate to severe pain that is ongoing or chronic, such as arthritis or cancer.


Acetaminophen is an effective pain reliever and fever reducer. It works in several ways, including inhibiting the synthesis of prostaglandins, a natural substance that initiates inflammation. The drug also reduces fever by reducing core body temperatures in the hypothalamus area of the brain. It’s found in more than 600 prescription and nonprescription (or over-the-counter, OTC) medications, such as Tylenol. It’s also available as an ingredient in many cough and cold products. It’s important to read the Drug Facts label or ask your doctor before taking acetaminophen, especially for long-term use or in high doses. Even if you take only one tablet a day, too much can cause liver damage.

Paracetamol is the name used in some countries for acetaminophen. It’s used to treat pain and fever, such as from headache, common cold, muscle aches, backaches and toothaches. Menstrual cramps can also be treated with it, but in conjunction with other medications. It’s a mainstay in over-the-counter medications, such as Actifed, Alka-Seltzer Plus Liquid Gels, Arthritis Pain Relief, Aspirin and Sinutab. Some prescription drugs contain it, including Butalbital, Fioricet with Codeine and Lortab.

Acetaminophen can relieve pain and aches, but it is not as effective for some conditions as other pain medications. Acetaminophen is not as effective as ibuprofen for headaches caused by migraines. Ibuprofen can treat both pain and migraines. Acetaminophen will also be less helpful if your pain is due to inflammation, such as from a pulled/strained muscle.

When using acetaminophen, be careful not to overdose. The maximum amount you can safely take is 4000 milligrams a day for adults. The dosage for children is lower. Acetaminophen comes in a variety of forms, including tablets to swallow, tablets that dissolve or chew, disintegrating tablets and capsules, liquids, solutions and intravenous injection. The most common form of acetaminophen is the over-the-counter Tylenol brand. For patients who have special needs, some doctors may prescribe other types of acetaminophen. For instance, a rectal suppository is sometimes used in hospital settings to quickly relieve pain. Some people find this is more comfortable than oral administration.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are some of the most widely used pain relievers in the world. They not only reduce pain but also inflammation, and lower a high body temperature. These drugs can be purchased over-the counter (OTC), or prescribed by doctors. They are available in tablets, capsules (capsules that go into the lower colon), creams, and gels. These medications can be used regularly or only when needed to treat mild to moderate conditions like colds, flus, menstrual pain, toothaches, and strains/sprains.

NSAIDs work by inhibiting enzymes called cyclooxygenases (COX). The inhibition of COX reduces the production of prostaglandins that cause pain and swelling in the body. NSAIDs can be classified as either nonselective or selective, depending on their ability to inhibit only specific types of COX. Aspirin and other nonselective NSAIDs are usually taken in higher doses. Aspirin can reduce the risks of strokes, blood clots, and heart attacks in patients with coronary arterial disease.

Many people find that OTC NSAIDs are adequate to ease their pain, but some may need prescription-strength options. Some NSAIDs can be used in conjunction with other treatments or medications, such as physical therapies. It is important to consult a doctor before taking NSAIDs, especially if you are already taking medication or have underlying health issues such as kidney or liver disease.

Some NSAIDs may increase your risk for stomach or intestinal adverse reactions, such as bleeding, ulcers and perforation of the intestines or stomach. This increased risk increases with the duration of NSAID use, and in patients who have underlying risk factors for these events.

Aspirin and other NSAIDs can increase blood pressure. This could cause a heart attack or stroke. This risk is greater in those with preexisting cardiovascular disease, such as a history of angina or coronary artery disease, or in those who are at increased risk for these problems due to age or other factors.


Opioids (pronounced oh-pee-awids) are pain medicines used to control severe pain caused by surgery or injury, or by chronic conditions such as cancer. They are usually prescribed for a short period and must be taken with caution because of their high risk for addiction, abuse and overdose. Too many opioids may cause breathing issues that are life-threatening and can even lead to death.

They work by blocking the pain signals sent to brain opioid receptors. They can also cause feelings of pleasure or euphoria. High doses of these drugs can cause breathing problems and slow down your heart rate.

Adolescents abuse prescription opioids to either get high, or mask symptoms like depression and anxiety. Misuse of prescription drugs can lead to health problems or even death in some young people. According to the CDC, one out of four teenagers take prescription painkillers or non-prescription ones without a physician’s consent.

Acetaminophen and opioids are the most commonly prescribed pain medications. Some people with long-term pain may also be prescribed benzodiazepines, which are powerful muscle relaxants. They can also cause nausea, dizziness, and constipation. These drugs can increase the risk of heart attacks, seizures and strokes, particularly in elderly people or patients with heart conditions.

Unlike NSAIDs, opioids are generally not recommended for children. Adolescents’ brains are still developing, and they can be sensitive to these drugs. Also, teenagers may not be able to tell how much of a drug they are taking and are more likely to misjudge how much pain relief is needed.

Ask your doctor how you can manage pain without using medications. Use our Pain Questionnaire as a tool to prepare for your visit.

Opioid medicines can be used to treat chronic pain that has not responded to other treatment methods, such as physiotherapy, relaxation and exercise. If your child has chronic pain, consider asking them to see a specialist. Your doctor can consider the various options and choose one that works best for your child.


Pain relievers or analgesics are medicines that help reduce pain or ease it without interfering in the functioning of your nervous systems. Analgesics are not anesthetics which can temporarily block sensations or render pain ineffective (numbness). They work by acting on the peripheral and central nervous systems to control pain. The majority of pain medication is analgesic, however there are a few medications that prevent or enhance the action of analgesics.

Acetaminophen is an analgetic, as are nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids. Many of these are available over the counter, whereas others require a prescription due to the high risk of misuse and addiction in the absence of medical supervision. Nonopioid analgesics, such as NSAIDs and paracetamol, are generally considered to be first-line treatment for acute pain.

NSAIDs and paracetamol alleviate pain by reducing inflammation at the site of injury, while opioids alleviate pain by changing the way your brain perceives it. In addition, some NSAIDs and other anti-inflammatory drugs are used as adjuvant analgesics alongside opioids for pain involving nerve damage.

The opioids work by binding with the opioid receptors in membranes of neuronal cells, mainly those in the CNS or gut. The neuronal activities are reduced, and the pain signal is decreased. The natural substance morphine and its synthetic derivatives are the most effective opioid analgesics. They are very effective for moderate to severe pain and can be habit-forming if used regularly for extended periods.

Nonopioid analgesics are often added to opioids to prevent or reduce the onset of drug tolerance and dependence, especially when the drug is taken over long periods of time. Acetaminophen, NSAIDs and other painkillers are commonly prescribed.

Analgesics are administered in a variety of ways, including tablets you swallow or liquid you inject into the body using a syringe or pump. The type of pain you have determines the type of analgesic you need, and your healthcare team will advise on what is best for you. Your healthcare team will tell you if your medication is right for you. They can also advise you on the best dose to use, how frequently to do it, and even how long to continue taking it.