What is acetaminophen?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is considered a first-line treatment for chronic muscle and joint pain, including osteoarthritis and nonspecific low back pain. It is a slightly weaker pain medication than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and does not share their ability to reduce inflammation, but is usually safer and less expensive.

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Acetaminophen is the generic name of an active ingredient found in many over-the-counter (OTC) products and prescription medications. Acetaminophen also is known by various OTC brand names, such as Tylenol. The drug also is used in combination with other active ingredients, called "combination medicines," to treat symptoms of colds and influenza (flu), allergy and insomnia. Prescription drugs (such as Vicodin) contain acetaminophen and other active ingredients to help relieve pain.

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