Everything Old Is New Again: Caffeine as a Potent Pain-Killer


Excedrin Extra Strength: Combines acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine for more pain relief!

Caffeine is a potent pain-killer.  However, in addition to reducing pain on its own, caffeine in even low doses has been shown to magnify the pain killing power of aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprophen and even of narcotic analgesics.  Decades ago, caffeine was commonly combined with aspirin, in over-the-counter pharmaceuticals such as Anacin, and with narcotic pain killers, in prescription pharmaceuticals such as Percodan.  Strangely enough, when acetaminophen largely replaced aspirin as the non-prescription pain-killer of choice, drug manufacturers stopped adding caffeine to these products!  Whether this was because of some bizarre FDA rule or other unjustified cause, for many years caffeine was no longer available as a adjuvant to other pain killers.

There is good news about this issue today.  Somehow, pharmaceutical companies have seen the light and rolled back the clock and are now using caffeine to boost the pain killing power of many of their analgesic products.  For example, Excedrin Extra Strength now includes caffeine.

A metastudy reviewing 30 pain studies in which caffeine was used in combination with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat postpartum, dental, and headache pain, found that the addition of 65 mg to 200 mg of caffeine (the amount in about 1/2 cup to about 1 1/3 cups of filter drip coffee) resulted in a clear increase in the power of the NSAIDs to relieve pain.  It is clear that you would do well to create your own combination pain-killer by taking a Jet-Alert caffeine pill or drinking a cup of coffee when you are taking Advil (ibuprohen).

However, the power of caffeine alone to relieve pain is extremely impressive.  In a major study, researchers split participants into four groups that were given either 400 mg of ibuprophen alone, 400 mg of ibuprophen combined with 200 mg caffeine, 200 mg of caffeine alone, or a placebo. Amazingly, caffeine alone delivered as much pain relief as the ibuprophen!  Caffeine also worked faster, ending the headaches a half-hour quicker than the ibuprophen. However, the best results were achieved with the combination of caffeine and ibuprophen and the combination of caffeine and ibuprophen also worked much longer, providing an extra four hours of pain relief as compared with ibuprophen alone. So, if your doctor is aware of these facts, perhaps he might be telling you, “Take 200mg of caffeine—and call me in the morning!”

To relieve pain more effectively, use caffeine pills alone or with other pain killers!

Caffeine has a special power to relieve migraines, a property that is put to good use in Excedrin Migraine.  See our post, “Caffeine: A Powerful Treatment for Migraine Headaches.”

Excedrin Migraine Takes Advantage of Caffeine's Special Power to Relieve Migraines!

How Caffeine Stops Pain:

  • Caffeine delivers pain relief by exerting relief at the site of an injury, acting directly on muscle tissue to relieve pain by repairing tissue damage and reducing inflammation.
  • Caffeine also has profound CNS effects that block the central processing of pain signals in the brain and that increase the effectiveness of the body’s natural pain killing mechanisms.

To read more about this topic, see our page, “Controlling Pain with Caffeine.” 

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6 Responses to Everything Old Is New Again: Caffeine as a Potent Pain-Killer

  1. awebaby says:

    I have insomnia that is partially at least related to pain. I will wake up after about 3-4 hrs and can not get back to sleep. Sometimes though, a pain killer will help because my body is, at that point in quite a bit of pain. It’s usually alka seltzer. I would not take any caffeine in the middle of the night but I have noticed that a strong cup of black tea or coffee sometimes puts me to sleep in the morning if I have been awake half the night. This seems to be because it partially at least relieves the pain and I am able to get drowsy and will wind up getting a few more hours sleep and this is without any other pain medication. I love coffee but I don’t drink it often because it upsets my digestive system. Tea does not so I guess that upset is not from caffeine but from something else in coffee. I use a couple of teabags in a cup of black tea.

  2. Anthony says:

    I have chronic feet pain which resulted in surgery and I still have pain a few months after, so I have to take painkillers 2 or 3 times a day. As I have a sensitive stomach and don’t want to ruin my stomach or liver with long term medication I opt for Panadol instead but I find panadol combined with a strong short Italian style espresso (made from a coffee machine which is stronger than an instant coffee) makes me feel great for hours usually. Panadol alone is sometimes not enough but mixed with a very strong espresso really helps.

    Only problem is when i have too much caffeine I do find my stomach doesn’t like it and get symptoms of acid reflux. I’d recommend anyone experiencing pain with a good stomach use Italian style espresso from the machine to help manage pain naturally.

    • I am happy to learn that you have confirmed that Panadol and the caffeine in espresso helps relieve your pain. However, you should be aware that, even though coffee or espresso can upset your stomach, caffeine itself does NOT upset your stomach. I strongly suggest that you try combining Panadol with caffeine pills — this would relieve your pain and definitely not upset your stomach.

  3. Dave Larry says:

    Well being a drug addict for over 20 years strong(mostly pain killers but Ive been know to dabble in other affairs) I probably can tell you a little about it.Now I wouldnt D.A.R.E say I know as much as you guys..but if I had to take a stab at it Id say caffeine is more of an adrenaline boost.Kind of like cocaine.Did you watch Scarface?Im surprised its not illegal.Guess it got grandfathered in like liquor and cigarettes.Hows that war on drugs worrkin out?ALL-RIGHT!Actually its working out perfect for all parties involved.Everybodys makin money from the sucker workin man eh.Hes the only one that still doesnt get whats happening.Does it feel like your not getting any where in life?Hm,thats weird.

  4. Richard Davis says:

    I have degenerative disk disease & a herniated disk in my neck / upper back. A couple good strong cups of caffeine does help to reduce the inflammation.