Pain relievers are often the first medicine your doctor will recommend to help with pain. Some pain relievers are available without a prescription, while others must be prescribed by a doctor.
Paracetamol is a simple pain reliever that may ease mild to moderate pain. There are also stronger pain relievers, such as a combination of paracetamol and codeine, tramadol and a range of morphine-like medicines (opioids).
Pain relievers act on the nervous system to reduce pain. They do not affect other symptoms such as joint swelling or stiffness.
In some cases pain can be controlled by using an analgesic just when it is needed. Sometimes pain is better controlled by taking an analgesic regularly, for example four times a day. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice on the best way to take analgesics for your condition.
Paracetamol has few side effects when taken at the recommended dose. However taking more than the recommended daily dose can potentially cause severe liver problems. Be careful when taking pain relievers with over-the-counter medicines, such as ‘cold and flu’ medicines. These medicines may also contain paracetamol and you may accidentally take more than the recommended daily dose. Always ask your pharmacist for advice before taking any over-the-counter medicines. Stronger pain relievers, for example those that contain codeine or other opioids, may cause constipation, nausea, vomiting and drowsiness.
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This resource has been developed based on the best available evidence. A full list of references is available upon request.