Pain is, by definition, unpleasant. Listed below are some common preparations used to treat the varying degrees of pain severity.


- aspirin, ibuprofen, diclofenac

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are most effective at relieving mild pain.

They are particularly effective at relieving muscular pain, dental pain & pain associated with pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) or rheumatic disease.


Good for mild pain. Particularly effective for general aches and pains associated with viral infections. Also known as acetaminophen in the USA (eg. Tylenol).

A combination of a NSAID plus paracetamol is very effective for mild to moderate pain.


Good for relieving moderate pain. Opioid analgesic.

Some over-the-counter preparations contain a small amount of codeine.

If you require stronger analgesia, a prescription from your doctor will usually be required.

Combination Preparations

- co-codamol (codeine + paracetamol) eg. Kapake, Solpadol, Tylex
- co-dydramol (dihydrocodeine + paracetamol)
- co-proxamol (dextropropoxyphene + paracetamol)

Best for moderate to severe pain. The opioid element in these preparations can cause drowsiness. Long-term use can cause addiction.

Not readily available over-the-counter (ie. prescription-only).

Note: Co-proxamol is to be withdrawn from the market and the CSM has advised that coproxamol treatment should no longer be prescribed; patients who are already receiving it should have their treatment reviewed and another analgesic considered.


- dihydrocodeine (DF118)
- tramadol
- fentanyl
- morphine

Best for severe pain. Only available by prescription.

Side-effects of full-dose strength opioids include nausea, vomiting, severe constipation, drowsiness, respiratory depression, and risk of dependence with long-term administration.

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