OTC Pain Relievers: Types & How To Safely Use Them

The two main categories of commonly used pain relievers (also known as analgesics) are acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) controls pain and fever but doesn’t help with inflammation. It’s an active ingredient in many drugstore headache and cold remedies.
  • NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn). These ease pain and lower fever like acetaminophen, and also work as anti-inflammatories. NSAIDs are popular pain relievers for inflammation-related conditions like arthritis and injuries.

Potential side effects

Acetaminophen. High doses can damage the liver. The maximum recommended per day is usually 4,000 milligrams (mg), equivalent to 12 regular-strength or eight extra-strength Tylenol tablets. It’s also possible to develop liver problems after taking small to moderate amounts if done so over an extended period.

To be safe, take no more than 3,250 mg of acetaminophen a day. The FDA recommends using products containing no more than 325 mg per pill or capsule to avoid excessive dosages. Also, be cautious when mixing multiple products containing acetaminophen, such as a pain reliever, a cold medication, or a prescribed narcotic. “And do not take acetaminophen if you drink alcohol more than moderately on a regular basis or if you have liver disease,” says Dr. Gilligan.

NSAIDs. The most common side effect is stomach irritation which may cause pain, bloating, or heartburn. These medications also may cause ulcers, which can lead to internal bleeding. Excessive use of NSAIDs increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. The most common daily limits are 1,200 mg for ibuprofen and 660 mg for naproxen.

All NSAIDs (except aspirin) tend to boost blood pressure. While the effect is most potent in people who already have high blood pressure, anyone taking an NSAID may see an increase in readings.

People who are concerned about possible side effects can try topical pain relievers, such as products containing diclofenac (Voltaren gel) or lidocaine. “They are a safe choice for pain due to soft tissue injury or osteoarthritis as smaller amounts are absorbed by the body,” says Dr. Gilligan.

Read more at Harvard Health

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s