How do painkillers work


How do painkillers numb/ stop us feeling pain.


The three painkillers you’re most probably the most familiar with — aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen — all work in roughly the same way, so I’ll give a blanket explanation for all three.

In your body, there’s a family of enzymes known as *cyclooxygenase* (COX). Their purpose is to create something called *prostaglandin,* a signaling compound. Prostaglandins, in turn, attach to nerves in your body at the site of injury and damage to signal pain.

What the painkillers I mentioned do is stop COX from working by changing its shape to the point where it can’t do its job. If there’s less COX doing its job, there’s less prostaglandin to attach to nerves, and therefore you feel less pain.

To get ahead of a common followup question, painkillers don’t know where the pain is. They simply stop COX from working everywhere, but since prostaglandins are only attaching to nerves where the pain is, that’s why it seems like they must know.