Dr Karl Kruszelnicki reveals how pain relief medicine really works

Dr Karl: How does your pain killer medicine ‘know where to go’ inside your body?

  • Popular Aussie scientist Dr Karl Kruszelnicki has explained how pain killers work
  • Dr Karl said medications like Nurofen don’t travel to a specific pain point
  • Instead they stop the production of a chemical that causes pain at nerve endings

Popular Australian scientist Dr Karl Kruszelnicki has revealed how medicines like ibuprofen and paracetamol ‘target’ pain in your body. 

And while many believe pain is ‘sought out and numbed’ my medication, Dr Karl said pain killers instead work to stop the production of prostaglandins which cause physical pain at the site of an injury to promote healing.

Dr Karl, who has degrees in medicine and biomedical engineering, discussed the topic in a TikTok video to dispel the widely held belief that pain killers target specific areas of the body.

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Scientist Dr Karl Kruszelnicki (pictured), 73, has explained how pain relief medication works to target a specific area on the body

‘When my daughter was little she asked me, ‘how does medicine know where it hurts so it can go just there and fix it?’,’ the radio host said. 

‘In general, the answer is that pain killers do not know.’

He said after an injury, the body manufactures ‘tiny chemicals’ known as prostaglandins which can cause pain and inflammation, open up blood vessels and help heal the area. 

‘Nurofen, the painkiller, it blocks certain enzymes and pathways that stop prostaglandins from being made – fewer prostaglandins, less pain,’ he explained. 

Dr Karl expanded saying if someone had a sore foot and took Nurofen, the pill wouldn’t ‘magically’ know to travel only to the foot.   

‘Instead the medicine travels all over your body to block prostaglandin pathways everywhere and in the process it stops the pain in your foot,’ he said. 

‘Because medicine has travelled all through your body, that’s one of the reasons medicines can have side effects.’ 

Dr Karl said medications like Nurofen actually ‘do not know’ the exact spot in your body you’re feeling sore but stops the body producing a chemical called prostaglandin that causes pain

Dr Karl warned taking pain killers will also stop the prostaglandin production in the stomach and overuse can lead to ulcers. 

The celebrity scientist’s video has been viewed more than 23,600 times with many in the comments thankful for the ‘great explanation’ while others asked further questions.  

‘So then it wouldn’t matter if you had two or three different sore bits, it would be just as effective?’ one follower queried.

Dr Karl warned taking pain killers will also stop the prostaglandin production in the stomach and overuse can lead to ulcers

‘I reckon so – if all painful bits of your body had the same level of pain,’ Dr Karl replied. 

Another asked if pain relief gels and rubs such as Voltaren which are applied to a specific area effects the targeted spot to which Karl responded: ‘Local treatments can sometimes work locally – depending’. 

‘Wait, why does blocking prostaglandin in your stomach cause ulcers..?’ a third asked.

‘Prostaglandins have many different actions which each reduce the mucus layer which stops your stomach acids from dissolving your stomach wall,’ Dr Karl answered. 

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