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Which Pain Killers Work Best?

February 13, 2016
Plain English Version

drugsAnalgesics are the drugs people take for headaches, muscle pain and fevers.

Analgesics include acetaminophens and ibuprofens.


Acetaminophens are drugs people take for headaches. Tylenol is a well-known acetaminophen. There are many other acetaminophens. In this article, when we mean acetaminophen, we will use “Tylenol.”

Tylenol is processed in the liver. People who have liver disease, or who drink a lot of alcohol, should limit its use.


Ibuprofens are drugs people take for muscle pain. Advil is a well-known ibuprofen. There are many other ibuprofens. In this article, when we mean ibuprofen, we will use “Advil.”

Advil works better on muscle pain because it is anti-inflammatory. It also does a better job of reducing fevers and relieving menstrual cramps.

Doctors say Advil may be better for back pain and osteoarthritis. Older people and people with chronic pain may be better off with Tylenol. One said, “It gives them effective pain relief without all the risks”

Experts warn against excessive use of Advil, as it may cause heart disease, high blood pressure or swelling.


Ibuprofens are also part of a drug family called NSAIDS. Aspirin, Motrin and Aleve are NSAIDS.

NSAIDS can cause problems if taken too often or not as directed. They can cause upset stomachs or internal bleeding.

Experts say children with high fevers and adults with intense pain should alternate the two pain relievers: Tylenol and Advil

Aspirin works the fastest. It usually takes 45minutes for most drugs to work. It takes about an hour and a half to feel pain relief. Doctors warn patients against taking more than they should.

One doctor said, “These drugs are cheap, safe if used in correct dosages and within guidelines, and they are historically effective.”

Drugs for pain

Source: The Wall Street Journal May 11, 2015

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