What types of over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers are available?
There are two basic types of pain relievers available without a prescription.
1) Acetaminophen. The brand name more commonly known is Tylenol. Acetaminophen relieves pain and reduces fever.
2) Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) medications. There are a few different types belonging to this class of medication available. Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), acetylsalicyclic acid (Aspirin), and naproxen (Aleve). These medications relieve pain, reduce fever and inflammation.
What are they used for?
Acetaminophen is generally used for the treatment of fever and mild aches and pains. It can also be used 45 minutes prior to receiving an injection to reduce side effects. Because acetaminophen does not reduce swelling it is less useful for the treatment of sprains when compared to NSAIDS. However, for those who can’t use NSAIDS for various reasons acetaminophen may be the only choice.
NSAIDS are commonly used to reduce pain associated with inflammation such as dental pain and pain related to sprains and other minor injuries. Aspirin has fallen out of favor in recent years and is most commonly used once daily to prevent heart attack and stroke as it has the unique ability to decrease the ability of your blood to clot.
How long should you use OTC pain medications?
Except on the advice of a physician, OTC pain relievers should not be used continuously for periods of longer than 7-10 days. Over use of these medications can lead to medication over use headaches and other side effects. Additionally, if you have to use the medications for longer, you should see a doctor as the condition you are treating may be more serious than you originally thought. Delaying treatment of an injury can prevent proper healing.
How do you choose the right pain reliever?
Even though these medications are available OTC, they are not without their risks. For example, acetaminophen shouldn’t be used in those with liver disease and NSAIDS should be avoided in individuals with high blood pressure or heart conditions. Acetylsalicyclic acid should not be given to children under the age of 16. The instructions and dosages on the bottle should be followed and not exceeded without the advice of a health care professional.
Choosing the right pain medication can be difficult and overwhelming. The easiest way to ensure you pick the right medication is to check with your pharmacist.