You grab a painkiller upon experiencing an injury or a pounding headache but do you really know the mechanisms behind your pain? All you want is a quick relief from the pain. You should first understand the way in which the brain feels pain, if you want to know how analgesics treat pain. Nociception, also known as pain perception, includes relay of discomforting stimuli from the damaged or injured part to the central system made of spinal cord and brain. A chain of events take place in pain perception.
Events in Perception of Pain
Mechanical injuries such as pressure, burn, puncture, cut and/or other wounds activate the damaged tissues, which secrete chemicals like prostaglandins, bradykinin, potassium and histamines.
A type of nerve cell known as Nociceptor, senses the stimuli and feels the chemicals that are released from the injured tissues.
Transmission of signals to brain takes place from the nociceptor cells through the neurons located in the central nervous system. Signals travel via the spinal cord to the brain, through the spinothalamic tract, which is also referred to as the ‘neural freeway’.
The relay station medically termed as thalamus, located in the brain spreads signals to various parts of brain. This process involves multiple pain centers, not just one. Signal processing is carried out by an area of the brain known as somatosensory cortex, which makes a person feel the pain.
Suppression of Pain
Somatosensory cortex, thalamus and hypothalamus release impulses through descending pathways for inhibiting the ascending impulses of pain, thereby relieving pain. Some signals release natural pain-healing chemicals like endorphins, dynorphins and enkephalins. These chemicals block nerve impulse transport between the neurons situated in brain pathways.
Analgesics as Pain Relievers
Analgesics function in several ways for the treatment of pain. Non-opioid analgesic drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, acetaminophen and NSAIDs of the similar properties work at the site of injury. They block essential enzymes and prevent inflammation, in addition to inhibiting the secretion of nociceptor stimulating chemicals.
Opioid analgesics like morphine, fentanyl and oxycodone imitate the functions of naturally occurring pain-alleviating chemicals released by body. Anti-epileptic medications and antidepressants block nerve impulse transmission in brain, to cure pain. These medicines are also termed as co-analgesics.
Pain killers like Generic Ultracet have proven efficacy to heal pain. Ultracet is composed of two medications viz acetaminophen and tramadol along with other inactive agents. It is used for treating mild to severe pain, for example, pain post surgical or dental procedures. The USFDA approved this medicine in 2001, for the use as an analgesic.
Both acetaminophen and tramadol cure pain; but in different manners. Tramadol treats pain in two ways. It binds itself with opioid receptors present on the nerves, and also prevents the re-absorption of norepinephrine and serotonin by nerves. It causes a decreased transmission of signals of pain between the nerves in brain and the spinal cord.
Acetaminophen appeases pain in brain and spinal cord by increasing the strength of stimuli of pain essential to trigger the sensation of pain. It works by inhibiting the action of an enzyme that manufactures prostaglandins.