What are the different painkiller medicines available?

There are many ways to classify painkiller medicine also known as analgesics. For the purpose of this article, we will broadly classify them into the following:

  • Prescription based medicine: This category includes medicine that is prescribed by a licensed doctor. This can carry significant side effects if not used properly.
  • Nonprescription based medicine. This category is the one, where you walk into a pharmacy or a drug store and buy the medicine without a doctor’s prescription. This article deals with this category of medicine since this is the most used painkiller medicine by people around the world.

What are the different nonprescription based pain medicines?

The painkiller medicine in this category belongs to three major group:

  1. Paracetamol also known as acetaminophen.
  2. Non-Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) commonly pronounced as Ensaids. These include medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, celecoxib, or aspirin.
  3. Natural substance. Examples in this category include turmeric, cloves and other etc.

When is paracetamol (acetaminophen) helpful?

Paracetamol affects pain and not inflammation. Paracetamol is generally taken for:

Paracetamol enters places in the body where there is pain, and they stop sending out pain signals to the brain.

How much of paracetamol (acetaminophen) painkiller medicine to take?

Depending on the country you live in, paracetamol (acetaminophen) comes in the following strength tablet:

  • 325 mg
  • 500 mg
  • 650 mg

The maximum dose for people more than 18 years of age is as follows:

  • Up to 1,000 mg as one-time dose                            
  • Up to 4,000 mg is the 24-hour maximum                         

You can take up to maximum of eight 500 mg tablets and six 650 mg tablets over 24 hours.

When is NSAID (ibuprofen) helpful?

The NSAID’s affect both pain and inflammation. They block a substance called prostaglandins that increases pain and inflammation and because of this blockage you get benefit from pain. Ibuprofen is generally helpful for the following situations:

  • Sprain
  • Fracture pain
  • Headache
  • Menstrual pain
  • Back pain
  • Joint pain
  • Tooth pain

Some people may find paracetamol for some of this pain and this is based on personal preference.

sprain in the joint probably due to injury (www.canva.com)

When is aspirin (ecosprin) helpful?

Aspirin although an NSAID is not used for pain. This is because it frequently requires high doses and can increase side effects like stomach ulcer, gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux etc. that could cause burning sensation in the throat.

The main reason aspirin is used today is to reduce the risk of blood clots when it is taken in a low dose of 75 mg or 81 mg. Here is a pro tip. If you think someone is having a heart attack you can give, or you should give 4 of those small low dose aspirin also called baby aspirin while waiting for help. They can be crushed and chewed like a chocolate. This is because they work the fastest when they are chewed based on scientific studies.

When are natural painkiller medicine helpful?

Natural supplements like turmeric or haldi is used almost every day in India and other Asian countries. This has been scientifically tested in arthritis like osteoarthritis which is pain in the joints due to age. If you don’t have this at home, it may also be difficult to find these tablets. So, for the purpose of commonly occurring pain like I am mentioning in this video, you are better off just taking paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Clove is another natural painkiller that is commonly used for tooth pain. A clove can be kept between the teeth to get relief from tooth pain.


What painkiller medicine can pregnant women take?

Any medicine taken by pregnant women can affect the fetus. Hence careful choice of medicines are important. Pregnant women should avoid medicines unless they really need it or is advised by their doctor. Paracetamol is generally considered a reasonably safe painkiller to be used during pregnancy.

Can I take painkiller medicine to prevent alcohol hangover?

If you drink alcohol do not take any paracetamol or ibuprofen in the night to prevent a hangover as this not helpful. The liver will already be overworked with alcohol and if you take paracetamol on top off that, the liver will be put to strain, and this is not good. Alcohol also causes dehydration, and you may have experienced this if you have the habit of drinking. Dehydration reduces blood flow into the kidneys and ibuprofen is excreted through the kidney. Hence, these drugs are not good either for the liver nor the kidney.

What painkiller medicine do I take for exercise pain?

If you exercise, sometimes you get pain. Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen generally does not help. Also, the inflammation that occurs with exercise unless you have an injury is a healthy one and it helps heal the sore muscles. Taking coffee in fact is found to help with exercise related muscle soreness. Just try it out. That is what I do.

What painkiller medicine should I take after surgery?

This is a complex question and there may be restrictions based on your surgery. Your doctor may also prescribe you prescription medicines. In general, if you have severe pain like after surgery or other reasons, you can also take paracetamol and ibuprofen together. You can time them in such a way that you take paracetamol and take ibuprofen after a few hours and keep repeating it – of course keep in mind the maximum dose. This strategy is frequently followed in hospitals.

When should I take painkiller medicine?

Anybody can have pain anytime – this is so unpredictable. Many people when they have pain, they do not want to take medicine. There is nothing wrong with that.  This is because of the thinking of why take unnecessary medicines. Some may use pain balm, some of you may take coffee or tea or soda or whatever it is to get relief from pain. Even others may take a warm cloth or compress and just put it where they have pain. These all work to some degree. At some point the pain gets severe or you want more immediate relief, and you are looking for pain medicines.

It is important to time the medicine correctly if you need to get the benefit out of it. If you know you are going to have pain, some of the examples are menstrual cramps or migraine take it before it starts. After all, prevention is better than cure. Most of the times you cannot predict when pain starts in which case you just take as soon as feasible.

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