Whether you’ve got a headache, arthritis or even a toothache, choosing a pain reliever can be a bit confusing, especially with so many types of over-the-counter options available. So, we at Essence, along with our friends at TYLENOL®, are breaking down common pain-relieving ingredients for you right here: acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen.
They each provide great benefits, but there are many things to consider before choosing which one to take. Here’s some information on how to know which may be the right pain relief choice for you.
Better known to most as TYLENOL®, this ingredient is indicated to temporarily relieve headache, backache, minor arthritis pain, toothache, muscular aches, menstrual cramps, and to temporarily reduce fever. Acetaminophen won’t reduce any swelling or inflammation.
Acetaminophen is safe when used as directed. However, you do want to make sure you don’t accidentally take more than the maximum daily recommended amount, as acetaminophen may be one of the ingredients in other medicines you take. According to the FDA, there are over 600 medicines, both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC), that contain this ingredient, including cold and flu medications, so don’t take more than 4,000 milligrams per day.
Aspirin is indicated to temporarily relieve headache, toothache, pain and fever of colds, muscle pain, menstrual pain, and minor pain of arthritis. Plus, it helps to slow blood clots from forming—many doctors recommend aspirin therapy to help lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks in certain patients.
If you’ve talked to your doctor about taking aspirin for your heart health, be sure to understand how some pain relievers can interact with your aspirin heart therapy.
- Taking aspirin or other NSAIDs to treat pain when you’re already on aspirin heart therapy can increase your risk of side effects such as stomach bleeding. Ask your doctor for pain relief recommendations if you are on aspirin heart therapy.
- When you take ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Advil® & MOTRIN®*, it can compete with the positive benefits of your aspirin heart therapy. Specifically, it blocks certain receptors that are needed for aspirin’s cardiovascular effects.
- Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in TYLENOL®, can be an appropriate pain relief option for patients on aspirin heart therapy because it does not inhibit the heart-therapy benefits of your aspirin therapy, and it does not irritate the stomach the way that ibuprofen can. For people on aspirin heart therapy, TYLENOL® is the brand of pain reliever recommended most by doctors.
At over-the-counter (OTC) doses, ibuprofen is indicated for headaches, menstrual cramps, toothaches, and muscle strain. This pain relief option is a type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It works by lowering the amount of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins in the body that mediate pain, fever, and inflammation.
Effective at reducing fevers and relieving pain, it can raise the risk of heart attacks or strokes if you take it long-term, smoke, or have other risk factors like high blood pressure or a family history of heart disease. It can also be tough on your stomach, especially if you’re over 65, have a history of stomach ulcers, take blood thinners, have high risk for kidney problems, or have more than three alcoholic drinks per day.
The key is to find an option that is appropriate for you. If you’re at risk for hypertension, diabetes, stroke, or heart attack, talk to your doctor about any possible drug interactions, then make a plan to find what is right for you.
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