If you’ve ever wondered about the differences in the over the counter pain killers available to you, you’re not alone. Ingredient lists with scientific names mean nothing to most people so we’ve broken down the four most common pain killers you can get without a prescription for you!
Ibuprofen, Naproxen, and Aspirin are all considered ‘non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs’ or NSADs. This means that they are effective on pains such as arthritis, toothaches, sports injuries, menstrual cramps, and back pain. Basically, they should help relieve the pain from anything caused by inflammation.
These NSADs are also known for their blood-thinning properties. This means that by using these pills you are more susceptible to heart attack and stroke. If you have any history of heart problems in your past, or in your immediate family’s past, you should avoid use of them until you have consulted a doctor and they have declared it safe for you.
NSADs can also damage the stomach lining. If you have ever noticed, you are generally advised to take these pain killers with food, so as to reduce the damage they may cause. Regardless of whether you eat or not, the pills may cause heartburn and even ulcers. Because of the potential gastrointestinal issues connected with these painkiller, doctors and pharmacists alike would advise to take them at the lowest does and for the shortest period of time possible.
Naproxen lasts longer then Ibuprofen but tend to work slower and therefore, Ibuprofen is the better choice for quick releif from injuries etc. If you have an accident and thinkyou need an X-ray but your injured area is too swollen, Ibuprofen is the best thing to take, while also icing the area. Ibuprofen is actually the most common drug in the US!
Because of it’s blood thinning properties, Aspirin has become a popular drug for treating patients at risk of heart attack or recurring heart attack or stroke rather than as a pain killer.
Acetaminophen is very different than it’s over the counter contemporaries. It is one of the safer over the counter meds but it can cause serious liver damage if it is taken incorrectly. Most pharmacists would not recommend it unless for a specific reason. The risk of liver damage increases for those who drink alcohol regularly and it is suggested that men who drink more than 2 drinks a day, and women who drink more than 1 drink a day should avoid the drug.
Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen can be used to treat fever but pharmacists would advise people to always consult a doctor before deciding that it is the right drug to kill their fever. In relation to more serious health concerns, over the counter medication may do more harm than good!
Photo by: Shutterstock / Shesternina Polina