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Choosing the Right OTC Pain Reliever

By Edited Mar 6, 2014 0 0

We tend to treat all pain relievers as if they were the same thing, but are they? How do you know whether your pain would go away faster if you took Ibuprofen instead of Acetaminophen? Not all pain relievers are created equal, so here's a quick guide to what's works best and when.


It's a classic, but when should you use it beyond those times when the doctor tells you to take two and call him in the morning?
Aspirin enters your blood stream, reacts with substances that are concentrated in painful places (protaglandins) and then limits how many of them can be there. Aspirin an anti-inflammatory and works well on headaches and other minor pains. Some people also take it as a preventative for heart disease. However, it's not a never-fail wonder drug. Aspirin is one of the worst of your normal anti-inflammatories if you're going to take it for any length of time, mostly because it can give you heartburn and other digestive problems. It also shouldn't be used by children (it's linked to Reye's syndrome) or hemophiliacs (it's an anti-coagulant).


Ibuprofen isn't so different from aspirin and works in almost the same way. However, ibuprofen is generally easier on the stomach and the esophagus. It's especially good for people who have ulcers but still need to relieve inflammation, and it's a favorite for arthritis.


OTC Naproxen is better known as Aleve. Naproxen can be used for headaches, but it's one of the most effective anti-inflammatory medicines. For many people, it's the best choice for sprains, sunburns, and menstrual cramps. It also tends to last a little longer than aspirin or ibuprofen, probably because the OTC version is more recent and just a step down from a prescription dose.


Best known as Tylenol, acetaminophen is NOT an anti-inflammatory. It works well as a pain reliever for headaches and as a fever-reducer, but it isn't the best choice for coping with arthritis or other inflammation-based pain. However, it's also better for children, hemophiliacs, and people suffering from heartburn or other esophagus problems. For pain that doesn't go back to sprains or other inflammation, it's probably the best thing to use - at least if you want your stomach to thank you for it.



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