Understanding the Differences in OTC Pain Relievers

There are many over-the-counter pain relievers out there. Whether it’s Motrin, Tylenol or Aleve, it can be hard to know which to choose. Contrary to popular belief, there is a bigger difference between these medications than branding and price. In fact, their differences are quite significant.

If you want to know what type of pain relief medication to reach for next time you need it – keep reading.

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

The four main types of OTC painkillers available today are:

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

All these pain relievers can interact with the body differently, and certain pain may be better handled with one over the other.

Acetaminophen is a very popular active ingredient in OTC pain medication today. Brand names that use acetaminophen as an active ingredient include Tylenol, DayQuil, and more.

Acetaminophen is generally effective with very few side effects. It’s also generally safe to mix with a variety of other medications including decongestants and NSAIDs.

However, acetaminophen does not reduce inflammation and therefore is not suitable for pain related to arthritis or other pain caused by inflammatory reactions.

Aspirin is an NSAID painkiller used to treat pain and inflammation. Brand names that feature aspirin include Bayer, Miniprin, and more.

Aspirin is great for heart health. Taking a low dose of aspirin has been found to prevent heart attacks. Aspirin reduces the risk of blood clots, therefore, aiding circulatory health. Aspirin can allow blood to pass more easily through obstructed or narrow veins and arteries.

Ibuprofen is an NSAID used to treat pain, inflammation, and fever. It’s commonly used to treat pain associated with menstrual cramps and rheumatoid arthritis. It can be found in brand-name products like Advil, Midol, and more.

Ibuprofen is a fast-acting painkiller and is preferable for sudden-onset pain, such as an injury from a fall.

Naproxen Sodium
Naproxen sodium is a painkiller used to treat the same types of conditions that ibuprofen treats. Brand names that use naproxen sodium are Aleve, Anaprox, and more.

Naproxen sodium is a long-lasting NSAID, unlike ibuprofen. For this reason, it’s preferable for chronic, ongoing pain. It’s also associated with fewer possible side effects than ibuprofen, making it the safer NSAID of the two.

Not all OTC painkillers are created equally. By learning which ingredients treat which conditions, you can better manage your pain with OTC medication.