Pain is like a deafening alarm that alerts us of danger and abnormalities in the body. Sometimes pain signals can be overbearing, leaving a person emotionally and physically exhausted. These highly intuitive pain signals need to be appropriately managed with a treatment that can control the discomfort without affecting other parts of the body.
Over the past 100 years, patients worldwide have engaged in the restless pursuit of pain elimination through the fastest, most efficient ways possible, with painkillers producing the most effective results.
Painkillers are classified into two categories:
NSAIDs are commonly prescribed in low doses to relieve pain, reduce inflammation (redness, heat and swelling) and decrease fevers. On the other hand, weak and strong opioids are used to manage and control moderate to severe levels of pain experienced by patients with various ailments. Doctors often use a pain scale to accurately diagnose and prescribe patients with a painkiller from one of the categories mentioned above.
Herbal pain relief solutions are often used when patients have no affinity towards medicinal treatments. These options can be equally as effective as therapeutic options, if they are appropriately administered. Some of the most beneficial herbal pain relievers include:
The peppermint plant is well-known for its pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties which are attributed to its active compound's menthol, carvacrol, and limonene.
Capsaicin which is found in chilli peppers, can be used for natural painkiller effects. A 2011 study proves that the substance is effective in pain management. Researchers assume that the substance reduces the skin's sensitivity to pain by working on the nociceptor fibres, which carry pain signals.
The rosemary plant can help treat inflammation, headaches, muscle and bone pains, as well as seizures. Experts suggest that the herb acts on opioid receptors in the brain, specifically involved with pain sensations.
The eucalyptus plant can help reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation in the body by producing a cold or warm sensation that preoccupies the mind and dulls pain senses.
Zingiber officinale, commonly known as ginger, is a root that is considered a natural pain reliever. The consumption of ginger can accelerate recovery periods and reduce inflammation after strenuous activity. The root can also successfully reduce feelings of widespread mild pain and discomfort.
Feverfew is a medicinal plant that can reduce pain and fever, migraine headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, toothaches, and stomach aches. Feverfew contains a unique set of compounds that can reduce inflammation, muscle spasms.
Curcuma, the active ingredient in the turmeric, contains several pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. A 2014 study found that Curcuma is equally as effective as ibuprofen for pain management.
The above-mentioned natural remedies can be inhaled in the form of steam produced by oils, consumed in the form of tablets or applied to the skin topically.
Anti-inflammatory painkillers have been used for thousands of years dating back to Greek methodology when a physician named Hippocrates claimed that the willow tree could relieve pain and fever. The compound responsible for the willows' painkilling ability was salicylate, a precursor to the modern-day anti-inflammatory, aspirin. Other painkillers in this group include diclofenac, naproxen and ibuprofen.
Anti-inflammatory treatments work by blocking the effect of enzymes called cyclooxygenase (COX). COX enzymes are responsible for the generation of prostaglandins, and this is primarily involved in the induction of inflammation and pain at sites of injury or damage. Anti-inflammatories ultimately target the chemicals responsible for producing pain to eliminate the sensation. This makes it a useful ally in the fight against acute pain.
Unlike some conditions, which are hard to decipher, or challenging to treat, pain is a universal feeling that has several solutions nowadays. These solutions come in the form of painkillers, which are expertly formulated to tackle specific types of pain. At the beginning of a pain focused treatment plan, most professionals prescribe a lesser strength painkiller like paracetamol or ibuprofen.
However, there are some cases where these treatments do not provide sufficient relief, which leads to the recommendation of stronger based opioid treatments. Strong opioids, as the name suggests, represent a stronger or more potent form of the so-called standard painkiller. This category includes treatments such as tramadol tablets, diamorphine, morphine oxycodone, fentanyl and more.
Opioids function by instantly attaching themselves to receptors in the brain. Once they are secure, they interfere with the brain's ability to recognise pain sensations. Experts believe that this mechanism of action allows the treatment to be at least ten times stronger than other standard treatments. Thus, patients need to critically assess the level of pain they are experiencing before switching to a strong opioid option.
Most people believe that their safety is compromised when they use opioid treatments, however, this is not accurate. As with any medication, proper use fosters safe and effective results, whilst improper use and oversight of dosage and usage instructions can lead to adverse effects. Thus, patients are urged to follow all guidelines associated with safe opioid use.
In addition to the painkillers mentioned above, a few other medication groups are strong contenders for pain relief.
Some of them include:
|Painkiller Group||Description and MOA||Examples of Painkiller|
|Corticosteroids||Corticosteroids work by suppressing and reducing the immune system's inflammatory response, which subsequently relieves pain.||
|Antidepressants||Antidepressants are specifically designed to treat depression. However, they also help with pain that stems from conditions, like nerve damage and migraines. Experts are still unsure how the tablet works to relieve pain, but the general conclusion is that they reduce pain signals by acting on and promoting neurotransmitter activity in the brain and spinal cord.||Tricyclic antidepressants
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
|Anticonvulsants||These medicines are traditionally used to treat seizures; however, they are also quite useful in relieving nerve pain resulting from nerve damage due to shingles or diabetes. It can also treat fibromyalgia patients who have sensitised, over reactant nerves that produce excess pain signals. Experts believe these medicines eliminate pain by blocking abnormal pain signals between the damaged nerves and the brain and spinal cord.||
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Updated: 27th January 2021
Review Due: January 2022
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