Tramadol: Mechanism of Action & Pharmacokinetics

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  • 0:00 Tramadol
  • 0:44 Mechanism of Action
  • 2:01 Pharmacokinetics
  • 3:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

Tramadol is a prescription medication used to treat pain. In this lesson, we will learn how Tramadol relieves pain as well as how the body processes the medication.


Jeanie is an 83-year-old woman who lives alone. Last week, she stepped off her doorstep and fell down. She had a lot of pain in her ankle and her daughter took her to see her doctor. The doctor ordered an x-ray and verified that her ankle wasn't broken. He encouraged Jeanie to elevate the ankle and apply ice. He also gave her a prescription for Tramadol to help with the pain.

Tramadol is a medication often prescribed for moderate to severe pain. It is available by prescription only. It is used as needed for pain control as directed by a doctor and is also available in a long-acting form to manage chronic pain.

Let's look deeper into the pharmacology of Tramadol.

Mechanism of Action

Mechanism of action refers to how the body works on a cellular level to produce the intended effects of a drug. In the case of Tramadol, the intended effect is pain relief. The mechanism of action for Tramadol is not exactly known. But it is known to act on the mu opioid receptors to produce pain relief. Opioid receptors are located in the brain and there are three types, of which the mu opioid receptor is one. Normally, when a painful stimulus occurs, a neuron communicates to the brain and the person feels pain. When a person takes Tramadol, it acts on the mu opioid receptor, blocking the neuron from communicating pain to the brain.

Picture it this way: you have a dragon, a knight with a shield, and a princess. The dragon represents pain, the knight represents the neuron, and the shield represents Tramadol. The princess represents the brain. The dragon breathes fire on the princess! But the knight grabs his shield and blocks the fire from reaching the princess! In the same way, Tramadol acts to block the painful sensation from reaching the brain. And the knight and princess live happily ever after!

So, let's now look at how the body processes Tramadol.

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