September 22, 2022

Best painkiller: Understanding over-the-counter painkiller options

Some other warnings about NSAIDs: they should not be mixed with alcohol and it is best to consult your doctor before taking them if you are pregnant, have allergies or take other medications .

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What is acetaminophen?

Similar to NSAIDs, acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a star for relieving headaches, relieving minor aches and reducing fever, but falls short in the area of ​​inflammation. Acetaminophen is not an anti-inflammatory agent, so it will not reduce symptoms caused by inflammation such as swelling.3 It also works a little differently than NSAIDs. It appears to work on parts of the brain that receive pain messages and control body temperature, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

It is also gentler on the stomach and generally has fewer side effects than NSAIDs. That is why it is recommended for long-term use, for young children and for pregnant women. But it is important that you take the right dose to avoid complications. In very high doses, which can mean a super high dose or too high a dose over several days, acetaminophen can cause acute liver failure, according to the Mayo Clinic.

You’ll also need to avoid happy hour while taking acetaminophen, as it can lead to liver toxicity, says Dr. Van Groningen.

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What are combination pain relievers?

There are a few over-the-counter pain relievers that combine aspirin and/or acetaminophen with caffeine. The reason? Caffeine can help these pain relievers work better. In a 2014 study published in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviewsthe researchers found that painkillers containing 100 mg or more of caffeine provided more pain relief than painkillers alone.5

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What are topical pain relievers?

Whether you’re in pain after an intense workout or sprained your ankle during a run, a topical pain reliever can help. They come in the form of creams, patches, gels and sprays, and they are absorbed into the skin to reduce pain and inflammation in the area where you apply them.

Topical pain relievers can include ingredients such as methyl salicylate and menthol (both of which provide a cooling sensation), NSAIDs (for pain relief), and capsaicin (a compound in chili peppers that produces a warming sensation) , according to Cleveland Clinic. Capsaicin helps reduce pain by essentially desensitizing your nerves.6

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What about prescription painkillers?

If you suffer from chronic or severe pain after an accident or injury, over-the-counter pain relievers may not be enough. In these situations, your doctor may prescribe a prescription pain reliever. Things like opioids, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, muscle relaxants, and corticosteroids all fall into this category, according to the Cleveland Clinic. One caveat about prescription pain relievers is that with stronger medications there are more risks, including the potential for addiction. For this reason, your doctor will probably only prescribe a short course of these drugs.

Whether you take prescription or over-the-counter medications, it’s a good idea to keep a list of all the medications, vitamins, and supplements you take so your doctor and pharmacist can be aware of any harmful drug interactions that may occur. .

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What is the best pain reliever for each type of pain?

Knowing all the over-the-counter pain relievers is one thing, but understanding when to use each type of medication is another. Whether you’re dealing with a searing headache or unbearable menstrual cramps, here’s how to know which is the best pain reliever for your situation. And remember, if you’re not sure what kind of medication you need, it’s always best to check with your doctor first.

The problem: muscle and joint pain

Consider: Ibuprofen or naproxen