Ibuprofen (eye-boo-pro-fen) is commonly used and can help with pain and inflammation. It can be bought over the counter, without a prescription.

the counter

This category will carry all the pain killers the counter

What types of painkillers are there?

Most pain-relieving medications fall into one of the following groups:

  • Non-opioid painkillers – this includes paracetamol. Some of these are available over the counter from pharmacies and supermarkets. Other types need a prescription.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs – such as ibuprofen or naproxen. We also known these as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. We can buy some of these over the counter, and some need a prescription.
  • Compound painkillers – this is when two different drugs are combined into one. This could be a painkiller with an NSAID, or an opioid painkiller with a non-opioid painkiller. An example is co-codamol, which combines paracetamol with codeine.
  • Opioid painkillers – such as codeine, tramadol and morphine. These are only available on prescription.

What are analgesics?

Analgesics (an-al-gee-sics) is the medical name for painkillers, and they mean the same thing. We’ll use the term painkillers here.

We will probably recommend you non-opioid painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs first. We may recommend that you take them at the same time. If these don’t work, or you need stronger pain medication, then you may be offered compound painkillers or opioid (oh-pee-oyd) painkillers.

You may need other drugs alongside the ones described in this leaflet. For more information, see the section ‘Can I take other medicines alongside painkillers or NSAIDs?

Risks and side effects of paracetamol

Side effects are rare, though some people develop a rash.

Paracetamol can also damage your liver if taken at high doses. The number you can buy at any one time is limited because of this risk.

Be aware that many other products also contain paracetamol, so you should include these in your daily totals. These include cold and flu medications, and compound painkillers.

Paracetamol may not be suitable if you need long-term pain relief. If you are taking it for long periods, your doctor may review it every so often, to see if it’s still helping.

Paracetamol must be used in lower doses than usual if you have kidney problems. It should also be used with caution if you have liver problems. You should only drink alcohol in moderation when taking paracetamol.

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Ibuprofen is one type of NSAID that can be used to treat pain. However, there are many more available over the counter or on prescription