How Do Common Pain Relievers Work in the Body?

by Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer

Spring brings warm weather and outdoor adventures. A change in season can also bring new muscle and joint pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often recommended as a short-term solution to relieve the pain. NSAIDs work on hormonelike substances called prostaglandins that are released by cells in our bodies when we are injured. When prostaglandins are released, a message is sent to the brain that there is pain in the body. NSAIDs block the production of prostaglandins to help relieve the pain and inflammation. Although all NSAIDs work similarly, some people respond better to one NSAID than another. According to the National Arthritis Foundation, traditional NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen leave the stomach vulnerable to ulcers and bleeding. Some of the newer NSAIDs such as Celecoxib are less likely to damage the stomach. Every NSAID may increase the risk of serious blood clots, heart attacks, and stroke, which can increase with higher doses and long-term use. If you are on antidepressants, NSAIDs can decrease the effectiveness of some of the more popular antidepressant medications. Short term, NSAIDs can be a welcome relief to aching muscles and joints. They can also be purchased without a prescription and are relatively inexpensive. However, there are enough potential side effects of NSAIDs that they should be taken with discretion or under a doctor’s supervision.

--- Dr. Tracy Davenport is a health writer, advocate and entrepreneur who has been helping individuals live their best life. She is co-author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux. Follow Tracy’s love of smoothies on Twitter.

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.

Davenport is the founder of Using the latest scientific research, she helps people live their healthiest lives via one-on-one coaching, corporate talks, and sharing the more than 1,000 health-related articles she's authored.