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General Science => Question of the Week => Topic started by: thedoc on 08/03/2011 17:41:42

Title: QotW - 11.03.06 - How do pain medications target pain?
Post by: thedoc on 08/03/2011 17:41:42
Dear Naked Scientists,

I was wondering how Pain relief drugs target pain, and why we don't just go numb in random parts of the body? I hope you can help me in this,

Yours,

Andrew McCluskey
Asked by Andrew McCluskey
                                          Find out more on our podcast page (http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/podcasts/show/2011.03.06/)
Title: Re: QotW - 11.03.06 - How do pain medications target pain?
Post by: thedoc on 08/03/2011 17:41:42
We put this to Tim Warner from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry...

Tim -   The explanation for this lies in what causes the pain and how we experience it.  If we imagine, for instance, pain coming from something like a damaged tissue - you could think of something like an arthritic knee for instance.  In that knee, there's a local generation of factors that sensitise the local pain nerve endings.  So that local sensitisation depends upon what's happening locally in the knee and then to the nervous pathways, this is then taken as a signal to the brain where we perceive the pain.  And so, that part of our perception depends on what's happening in the central nervous system.

So we have that as an idea in our heads.  We can think about how the pain-relieving drugs work.  The non-steroidal drugs that we use for muscle, joint aches and pains, and other drugs like ibuprofen, they stop the formation of the sensitising factors  - in this example, the knee, and only the arthritic knee is making the factors.  Itís only there that the ibuprofen-type drugs act, and so, we feel less pain in our inflamed knee.  And at the same time, the other knee doesnít go numb because it isnít making the sensitising factors.  So there's nothing there for ibuprofen to inhibit.

If you had a more intense pain, say an operation on your knee, so you might use something stronger such as a morphine type drug, and those ones do work within the central nervous system.  So those drugs are going to cut down the signals in the brain, coming from the nerve collections in the knee, and so, they cut down the sensation of pain by a central effect in the brain, and not by acting locally in the knee like ibuprofen.  But because they act centrally, they have a tendency to also generally dampen down pain pathways.  So to some extent, you may have a feeling of numbness somewhere else.
Title: Re: QotW - 11.03.06 - How do pain medications target pain?
Post by: Tay Sharpe on 02/03/2011 18:11:50
Pain relief drugs (like aspirin and ibuprofen) don't actually 'target' spots in your body, they simply are dispersed around your whole body and thus the part of your body (brain) that is experiencing pain will be numbed. The drugs are designed not to have adverse effects as they move about your body, but because they are so general and because your body treats them essentially like a foreign substance, your body can become accustomed to processing these chemicals and over time will become quite efficient at moving the substance through the various filters in your body (e.g. liver) and the drugs will essentially become less effective because your body has become more effective at getting rid of them.
Title: Re: QotW - 11.03.06 - How do pain medications target pain?
Post by: amanda25 on 17/03/2011 08:47:19
come to see.Thanks
Title: QotW - 11.03.06 - How do pain medications target pain?
Post by: billferguson on 27/03/2011 04:07:17
There are at least 2 types of pain medications: 1) aspirin, tylenol, etc. which reduce inflammation 2) narcotics opiods which work on pain receptors in the brain. all pain comes from the brain, not the body part that is inflamed or injured.
Title: Re: QotW - 11.03.06 - How do pain medications target pain?
Post by: AowlowLdow on 23/10/2017 03:56:15
teathey are so general and because your body treats them essentially like a
Title: Re: QotW - 11.03.06 - How do pain medications target pain?
Post by: johnclerk on 18/01/2018 10:33:43
The clarification for this lies in what causes the torment and how we encounter it. In the event that we envision, for example, torment originating from something like a harmed tissue - you could consider something like a ligament knee for example. In that knee, there's a neighborhood age of components that sharpen the nearby torment nerve endings. With the goal that neighborhood sensitisation relies on what's going on locally in the knee and after that to the anxious pathways, this is then taken as a flag to the mind where we see the torment
Title: Re: QotW - 11.03.06 - How do pain medications target pain?
Post by: evan_au on 18/01/2018 21:08:11
Quote from: Tay Sharpe
Pain relief drugs (like aspirin and ibuprofen) don't actually 'target' spots in your body
The Australian legal system has finally caught up with Tay Sharpe in 2011...

A court in Australia has ruled that painkillers that claim to target specific pains were conducting false and misleading advertising.

http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/nurofen-found-to-have-made-false-claims-about/7027986