More than 75% of us take an OTC pain reliever at least once a month.

What is safe and effective and for what types of pains:

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

  • Reduces fever.
  • Relieves mild to moderate musculoskeletal pain.
  • Relieves mild to moderate back pain.
  • Relieves mild to moderate headaches.
  • Often helpful with colds, sore throat pain, toothaches.
  • Cautions: Alcohol and Tylenol in excess can damage the liver; can interact with the blood thinner Warfarin (Coumadin).

Aspirin (Bayer, Excedrin, Ecotrin, St Joseph, Bufferin)

  • Reduces fever.
  • Relieves mild toothaches.
  • Relieves moderately sore muscles.
  • Relieves mild to moderate back pain.
  • Relieves mild to moderate headaches.
  • Cautions: DO NOT TAKE if less than 18 years old; must stop prior to any surgery; taking other NSAIDS may make aspirin less effective to prevent heart attacks.

Ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) and Naproxen (Aleve)

  • Relieves pain from acute muscle injury.
  • Relieves arthritis pain.
  • Relieves low back pain.
  • Relieves moderate to severe headaches.
  • Relieves moderate to severe menstrual cramps.
  • Cautions: May worsen asthma; must stop prior to any surgery; DO NOT TAKE if you have an stomach ulcer history; prolonged use increases your risk for a heart attack.

How to avoid problems with OTC pain relievers?

  • Always read and follow the instructions for amount to use per dose, and not to exceed daily on the label.
  • Use them as breifly as possible and if pain lasts more than 10 days, consult your Doctor.
  • Do not use NSAIDS daily for chronic pain lasting more than 10 days as you are more likely to experience serious side effects.
  • Know when to consult your Doctor if you have health problems or take numerous other medications including supplements.