OTC Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Annette (Gbemudu) Ogbru, PharmD, MBA

    Dr. Gbemudu received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Nova Southeastern University, her PharmD degree from University of Maryland, and MBA degree from University of Baltimore. She completed a one year post-doctoral fellowship with Rutgers University and Bristol Myers Squibb.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Surprising Reasons You're in Pain Slideshow

What are the types of headaches?

Headaches are the most common reason that pain medications (analgesics) are taken. Headaches can be classified into three types:

  1. muscle contraction,
  2. migraine or vascular, and
  3. sinus.

Muscle contraction headache

A muscle contraction headache, the most common type, results from the continuous tightening of the muscles in the upper back, neck, or scalp. This type of headache often is described as a tight, pressing, or throbbing sensation of the head. It can be brought on by emotional stress and anxiety ("tension headaches"). Acute muscle contraction headaches generally respond well to OTC analgesics, but chronic muscle contraction headaches can require physical therapy or relaxation techniques.

Migraine or vascular headaches

Migraine or vascular headaches are due to dilation (widening) of blood vessels in the head. An estimated 28 million people in the United States (about 12% of the population) will experience migraine headaches. Migraine headaches affect children as well as adults. Before puberty, boys are affected more than girls by migraine headaches. However, as a child nears adolescence, girls are affected more than boys. An estimated 6% of men and up to 18% of women will experience a migraine headache. Although many patients use the expression "migraine" to describe any particularly painful headache, many of these are actually muscle contraction headaches. OTC medications for pain may be quite effective for treating migraine headaches. However, prescription medications that are specifically formulated for treating or preventing migraines are often necessary.

Sinus headache

A sinus headache is caused by inflammation or an infection or blockage of one or more sinuses. The pain often is limited to the area around the eyes or the forehead. The pain may occur upon awakening, and may decrease in intensity after the person stands or sits up for a period of time. In addition to analgesics, OTC decongestants can be effective to help drain the sinuses.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/9/2015

Quick GuideChronic Pain: Causes, Solutions and Management

Chronic Pain: Causes, Solutions and Management
FDA Logo

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

RxList Logo

Need help identifying pills and medications?

Use the pill identifier tool on RxList.

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors