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Understand the differences in OTC pain relievers

Many over-the counter pain relievers are available. It can be difficult to decide between Motrin or Tylenol, or Aleve. Contrary to what is commonly believed, the differences between these medicines are not just about price and brand. Their differences are actually quite significant.

Keep reading to find out what kind of pain reliever to choose the next time you are in need.

The Four Kinds of OTC Pain RelieversOver-the-counter (OTC) painkillers on the market today come in one of four types. All four types have different active ingredients.


There are four types of OTC painkillers that are available today:

  • Acetaminophen-based.
  • Aspirin-based.
  • Ibuprofen-based.
  • Naproxen sodium- based.

These pain relievers may interact differently with the body, and some pain may be treated better with one than another.

Acetaminophen, a popular ingredient in OTC pain medications today, is very common. Tylenol and DayQuil are just a few of the many brand names that contain acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen has very few side-effects and is usually effective. Acetaminophen is generally safe when mixed with a wide range of medications, including decongestants or NSAIDs.

Acetaminophen, however, does not reduce inflammation. It is therefore not recommended for arthritis pain or any other type of pain that is caused by an inflammatory reaction.

Aspirin is a NSAID used to treat inflammation and pain. Aspirin is available under the brand names Bayer, Miniprin and others.

Aspirin can be good for your heart. Aspirin in low doses can prevent heart attacks. Aspirin helps circulatory health by reducing the risk of blood-clots. Aspirin allows blood to flow more easily through narrow or obstructed veins and arteries.

Ibuprofen, an NSAID, is used to treat inflammation, pain and fever. It is commonly used to treat menstrual cramps, rheumatoid arthritis, and other pains. You can find it in products such as Advil, Midol and others.

Ibuprofen has a rapid-acting effect and is preferred for pain that occurs suddenly, like an injury caused by a fall.

Naproxen Sodium
The same conditions are treated with ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. Naproxen sodium is sold under the brand names Aleve, Anaprox and others.

Naproxen is a long lasting NSAID. It’s not like ibuprofen. It is therefore preferred for chronic pain. It also has fewer side effects than ibuprofen. This makes it the safer NSAID.

Not all OTC medications are the same. You can manage your pain better with OTC medications if you know which ingredients are used for which conditions.



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