We’ve all popped a few aspirins or Tylenols in our day, but do we really know what happens when we take an Advil pain reliever? Are we just taking them so we feel like we’re doing something good for what ails us?
The most common pain relievers are ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin. Clearly pain relievers don’t just rush to the site of the pain and repair things, so what are they doing?
Pain relievers work in the cells and nerve endings. Basically, they fool your brain and nervous system into thinking the pain is gone, or at least into ignoring some of it. When you are injured, your cells release a chemical called prostaglandin. Your nerve endings are respond to this chemical and tell your brain that something is wrong – which is good, because it keeps you from walking on your broken leg or from going out in the cold with an ear infection (not to mention the times when it stops you from continuing something damaging, like putting your hand on something hot. On the other hand, it hurts!
That’s where pain relievers come in. Ibuprofen stops your cells from producing the prostaglandin, which means it takes your brain longer to know about the throbbing pain. For more intense pain relievers like the anesthesia, the method is slightly different. The medicine blocks nerve cells from each so that they can’t communicate with each other and the brain just doesn’t get the pain message. (This is good, because the doctor might slip if you jumped and yelled every time he made an incision or put pins in your bones.)
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