Painkillers: All You Need to Know

Painkillers: All You Need to Know

Painkillers are some of the most commonly used drugs. They help reduce or stop pain. When painkillers are used correctly, they can improve the quality of life, especially for someone suffering from chronic pain.

But they can have side effects and in rare cases lead to complications. In order to avoid harmful effects, it is important to make sure you use them properly.

There are a large number of painkillers available, and they all come in different brand names. Here we look at the three main types of painkillers, their uses, and side effects.

What are painkillers?

  • Painkillers are medicines that are used to treat pain. They can be taken by mouth as liquids, tablets, or capsules, or by injection. Some painkillers are also available as creams or ointments.

  • Even though a large number of painkillers are available, there are only three main types. They are paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and opioids. Each type works in a different way and each has its advantages and risks.
  • The painkiller your doctor will prescribe depends upon the type of pain you have, how severe your pain is, the cause of your pain, and any allergies or other health problems you may have.
  • Most people only need to take painkillers for a few days (for example, for a toothache) or weeks (for a pulled muscle). However, some people have painful conditions and need to take painkillers on a long-term basis. Examples include people with arthritis or chronic back pain.
  • Like all medicines, painkillers should be taken for the shortest period of time possible, and in the lowest dose that controls your pain. This can help avoid any side-effects.

The main types of painkillers are:


  • Paracetamol is the most common painkiller and is used to treat mild-to-moderate pain. It is normally used if your pain is not too serious and you do not have inflammation (swelling).
  • It is a mostly safe and useful medicine and can be effective for many different types of pain, including headaches, muscle aches and stiffness, and most non-nerve pains. It also helps reduce fever.
  • Paracetamol does not cause the stomach-related problems or side effects that happen with some other painkillers.
  • However, when taken in extremely high doses, it may cause liver damage.
    • Accidental overdose is also a risk because many other medicines, such as those for cold and flu, have paracetamol in them.

NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs)

  • Examples: Ibuprofen, Aceclofenac, Naproxen, Aspirin.
  • NSAIDs are used to treat mild-to-moderate pain. They also help reduce fever.
  • They are most effective in reducing inflammation (swelling), which often helps to relieve pain. They help treat conditions, such as pain in the joints (arthritis), muscle sprain, backache, and dental pain.
  • NSAIDs can have a number of possible side-effects especially at higher doses or long use. These side effects include indigestion, nausea, stomach bleeding, ulcers, kidney and heart problems.
  • Because the most common side effects are related to the stomach, taking NSAIDs with food may help prevent some of these problems.


  • Examples: Tramadol, Codeine, Morphine.
  • Opioids are more effective in treating moderate-to-severe pain than other painkillers.
  • Codeine is a weak opioid used for moderate pain. Morphine is a stronger opioid used for severe pain, for example, cancer-related pain, pain after an operation, or due to a serious injury.
  • Opioids may cause side-effects such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion.
  • Long-term use of opioids can lead to dependency, which means you will find it hard to live without them, and, in some people, this can lead to addiction.

Other types of medicines used to relieve pain

There are other medicines that are also used to relieve pain. They may be used when the painkillers above are not effective alone or are not suitable. For example, some antidepressant and anti-epileptic drugs may be used to treat nerve pain.

Steroids, such as prednisone, may be used when inflammation (swelling) is the main cause of pain. Steroids are very effective in reducing inflammation.

Steroids, however, may have serious side effects with high doses and long-term use, such as increased appetite and weight gain, difficulty sleeping, increased risk of infection, thinning of the skin and easy bruising.

Painkillers are usually not a long-term solution. If your pain persists, or if you have other health issues, such as high blood pressure or kidney problems, you should definitely consult your doctor.

Disclaimer: All material on is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical or health advice. Always seek the advice of your physician for any questions regarding your symptoms or medical condition and before taking any home remedies or supplements.

1 Comment

  1. My mom sufferes from all kinds of medical conditions. Its not like I can just go to the pharmacy and be like! Hey.. Can I try this? Or this? Or that? So i have been looking into some alternative methods. She already takes vitamins in gummy form. I want her to try CBD and see if it helps with her MS especially. Anyone try these CBD gummies before? have you ever tried this company before? Thanks for any advice!

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