Pain Home > How Does Tramadol Work?
Tramadol hydrochloride (Ultram®) is a prescription medication used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain in adults. It is classified as a centrally acting opioid analgesic. This means that tramadol works in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), acts much like morphine in the body, and relieves pain. Much like morphine, tramadol binds to certain opioid receptors in the body known as μ ("mu") receptors.
Tramadol also works in a similar manner as some antidepressant medications by inhibiting the reuptake of certain brain chemicals (serotonin and norepinephrine). These are two of several chemicals used to send messages from one nerve cell to another. As a message travels down a nerve, it causes the end of the cell to release serotonin or norepinephrine. The serotonin or norepinephrine enters the gap between the first nerve cell and the one next to it. When enough serotonin or norepinephrine reaches the second nerve cell, it activates receptors on the cell and the message continues on its way. The first cell then quickly absorbs any serotonin or norepinephrine that remains in the gap between cells. This is called "reuptake."
(For more information on how tramadol works, click Tramadol. This article provides a complete overview of this prescription drug, including information on its uses, general precautions, and potential side effects.)