Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Thursday, 9 December 2010

Pain Killers

We often take pain killers for headaches, injuries, aches and pains. But have you ever wondered what pain killers actually do? They are not the same, and each has different affects on the body. And different side effects too.

If you haven’t read my previous blog posts on pain, please do so, as they explain the four sources of pain – learned behaviour, repressed emotions, risk of damage to tissue, and actual damage to tissue. It will provide some nice background reading to understand the remainder of this blog post a little better.

Most pain killers are designed to interrupt the process of nociception. That is, the nerve system that detects damage or risk of damage to tissue through the nociceptors (nerve endings), travelling up the body to the brain where pain is received.

Aspirin and ibuprofen shut the perception of pain down at their source. They stop the signal from reaching the nerves that transport the signal to the brain. They block the nociceptors from ever receiving the stimulus of damage or risk of damage. The nerve endings are blocked from receiving the signal. Aspirin and ibuprofen also are anti-inflammatory. Ibuprofen is considered as a safer alternative to aspirin with fewer side effects.

Paracetamol is still not fully understood. It works by inhibiting the signal of pain in the spinal cord and brain, severing a vital link in the chain of pain signalling. If the signal doesn’t reach the brain, there is no signal to create the perception of pain.

Opiates such as codeine and morphine again work by inhibiting the signal of pain in the spinal cord and brain, though through a different process. Their use prevents the signal of pain reaching the higher levels of the brain where pain is perceived. Therefore, no signal, no perception of pain.

There are many other ways of relieving ourselves of pain, many of which I have described in my previous blogs in respect to pain management. Drugs are just one option to take.

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