Medicines and treatments for pain

As well as treating the cause of the pain if there is one (for example a broken bone), most people will take some kind of pain reliever medicine to relieve the pain.

What is a pain reliever?

Pain relievers are medicines that work on the body's nervous system to reduce the feeling of pain. They are also known as analgesics, painkillers and pain relief medicines.

Pain relievers have different active ingredients in them that make them work. It's important to know what these are and which one(s) you are taking, particularly if you are taking more than one medicine.

Many pain relievers can be bought over the counter without prescription. These include paracetamol, and anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, aspirin and diclofenac (e.g. Voltaren).

4 facts about pain relievers

  1. They provide temporary pain relief — they do not treat the cause of the pain.
  2. Some types of pain respond better to certain medicines than others.
  3. Each person may have a slightly different response to a particular pain reliever.
  4. Pain medicines have possible risks as well as benefits, so it's worth knowing how to use them safely.

Know how to use pain relievers safely

There are many things you can do to help ease or manage your pain. Often, pain relievers are just one part of a pain management plan.

It is important you know how to use these medicines safely. Stronger pain medicines are available on prescription for pain that is not controlled with over-the-counter pain relievers, but these are not discussed in this section.

You can find out more about your pain medicine by reading the consumer medicine information (CMI). Search for the CMI for your medicine by using our Medicine Finder.

Which pain relief medicine is right for me?

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about all the medicines you are currently taking so they can advise you which pain relievers are best for you, and how to take them safely. Make sure you include all pain relievers, both prescription and non-prescription, on a medicines list.

Chronic pain 

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Did you know?

If pain relievers are overused a 'medication-overuse headache', also known as 'drug-induced headache' may result. How much use is over-use? It usually means when medicines are taken for more than 10–15 days a month for a number of months.