Which Anti-Inflammatory Should You Take When? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on December 14, 2016

Which Anti-Inflammatory Should You Take When?

Which Anti-Inflammatory Should You Take When?

Each of these medications is effective, but
different people have different preferences
and levels of success with them.

Whether you’re a weekend warrior, suffer from mild arthritis or just have an occasional headache, chances are that you sometimes take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. There are a number of different drugs that are commonly taken. They’re all a little bit different, so it’s important to take the right medication for the right situation.

Here’s an overview of the different types of pain relief medications that you might consider to make that soreness go away.


Acetaminophen, most prominently marketed over-the-counter under the brand Tylenol, is the most commonly used pain relief medication. It reduces fever and relieves mild to moderate pain, such as headaches, joint pain and menstrual cramps. Acetaminophen does not reduce inflammation.

Acetaminophen should not be taken if you’re drinking alcohol. Long-term use can damage the liver. Also, it’s possible to overdose on acetaminophen, particularly if you don’t follow the instructions on the label. Acetaminophen is also found in some prescription medications, such as Vicodin or Percocet. When someone overdoses on one of these drugs, it’s usually the acetaminophen that does the damage.


Ibuprofen, commonly sold as Advil or Motrin, is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It reduces fever, relieves pain and can also reduce inflammation. NSAIDs should not be taken for more than three consecutive days for a fever or ten days for pain without talking to your doctor.

Long-term ibuprofen use can increase the risk of heart issues, so it should not be part of a daily approach to pain management.

Ibuprofen should not be taken when drinking alcohol – it can increase your risk of stomach bleeding.


This is also a NSAID, most commonly marketed under the brand Aleve. Aleve is generally longer acting, and therefore taken only once every 12 hours. For people with heart issues, this is the preferred NSAID if a pain reliever is needed for a longer period of time, as it does not pose the same heart-related risks as ibuprofen.


Aspirin is the oldest of these drugs, its origins dating back some 2,000 years. It’s also considered a NSAID and is effective at relieving minor pain.

Aspirin can also prevent blood clots from forming. Consequently, it’s common for people to take a daily baby aspirin in order to reduce their risk of stroke or heart attack.

Each of these medications is effective, but different people have different preferences and levels of success with them. Just don’t overdo it – and always pay close attention to the recommendations on the label.

Chronic Pain

Oftentimes, illnesses or injuries cause significant, lasting pain that over-the-counter pain medications just can't handle. Typically, pain that lasts longer than six weeks is considered chronic pain and should be evaluated by a physician.

If you are experiencing chronic pain, ask your primary care doctor about Crozer-Keystone's comprehensive pain management services.

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