What kind of over-the-counter pain reliever should I choose for my pain?

An over-the-counter anti-inflammatory painkiller can relieve occasional arthritis pain, but don't use OTC painkillers for chronic pain. In this video, I will explain.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen are often used to treat the same kinds of pain. However, you may find one class of pain medication relieves your pain better than another.

Some common conditions for which over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers may be helpful include:
  • Migraine: Both NSAIDs and acetaminophen are effective in treating mild to moderate headache pain, including migraines.
  • Back Pain: Both NSAIDs and acetaminophen may be used to treat mild to moderate back pain. If your back pain is due to an injury, NSAIDs will not only relieve pain, but also inflammation.
  • Cold and Flu: Treat minor aches and pains associated with colds and the flu with either NSAIDs or acetaminophen. Both types of pain reliever reduce fever as well. Be careful not to overdose on pain relievers by taking a multisymptom medication along with your usual pain medication.
  • Earache: Acetaminophen or NSAIDs may be used to treat mild to moderate earache pain.
  • Fever: Both NSAIDs and acetaminophen are effective fever reducers. Call your doctor if you take pain relievers to reduce fever for more than three consecutive days or if you have a high fever -- 103°F (39°C) or greater -- for more than two hours.
  • Hangover: Acetaminophen is effective for treating headache pain associated with hangover. However, do not take acetaminophen if you consumed more than three alcoholic beverages, as this may put you at risk for liver damage. Also, avoid taking NSAIDs after consuming alcohol; both NSAIDs and alcohol may cause gastrointestinal irritation and this effect is augmented when you take the two together.
  • Heartburn: If you experience heartburn, acetaminophen may be the better pain reliever choice because it does not cause gastrointestinal irritation the way NSAIDs can.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.