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How do pain relieving pills like advil relieve pain?

  1. Jan 18, 2014 #1
    On the part of the label where it lists the active ingredients in Advil, it says "Ibuprofen". And it says that ibuprofen is a "non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug." This makes me think that ibuprofen reduces pain by reducing/preventing inflammation (swelling) somehow. I can see how that would work for a muscular ache. One time someone punched me in the back, and it did not hurt right when they punched me. But a few hours later I was in agony. This made me think that it wasn't the force of the blow per se that caused my pain. It was the swelling as a result of the blow that caused me pain. The swelling was caused by white blood cells rushing to the area to repair the damage.

    Is my supposition that Advil works by reducing/preventing swelling correct?

    Would Advil reduce the pain from a cut? Say if someone cut their finger accidentally on a saw, would advil reduce the pain from the cut?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 18, 2014 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Ibuprofen inhibits the formation of prostaglandin - it should have some effect on the "achey" type pain from physical injury. It is not an anaesthetic, so you still get the sharp pains... i.e. you cut your finger, you'll feel the initial pain, but the longer-lasting pain should be reduced depending on how much you took.


    Google is your friend here.
  4. Feb 2, 2014 #3
    Is aspirin an anesthetic?
  5. Feb 2, 2014 #4
    No aspirin works by inhibiting cyclooxygenase which is required for the formation of prostaglandins, as Simon mentioned above. Just to re-iterate, Google really is your friend here. There is a ton of information out there about NSAIDs.

    Anesthetics typically have -caine endings in there names (lidocaine, procaine etc) as they are derivatives or tweaked versions of cocaine, which is itself a local anesthetic.
  6. Feb 3, 2014 #5

    Simon Bridge

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    Yeah, part of the appeal of cocain is that it provides a (usually temporary) end to the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

    Anyway - the way to tell the difference between an anaesthetic and an analgesic is to see if it stops you from feeling it when you prick your finger. Analesics, like asperin, paracetamol, ibuprofin, all releive pain - while anaesthetics like novocain, remove or deaden all sensation.

    But please - this is also something you can google very easily.
    The way to get the best out of sites like this one is to go look up the facts and definitions you seek then ask about the bits you don't understand.
  7. Feb 3, 2014 #6


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    Pain relievers work in one of two ways, they either block receptors in the brain, or messenger transmission from the source. There is no alternative.
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