Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen are mild pain relievers that are commonly used to treat pain caused by muscle sprains, back injuries, and menstrual cramps.
Learn about mild vs. strong pain relievers and what to keep in mind when taking them.
What are pain relievers?
Pain relievers, also known as painkillers or pain medications, ease discomfort caused by injury, illness, chronic health conditions, or surgery.
Pain relievers are sold under a variety of brand names and can usually be taken as a pill or tablet, as an injection, or as a suppository. Painkillers are also available in the form of ointments, patches, and creams.
What are NSAIDs?
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work by lowering the production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that irritate nerve endings and cause pain and inflammation. These pain relievers inhibit the effect of cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzymes, which are responsible for producing prostaglandins.
NSAIDs are often prescribed for people with muscle and joint pain caused by arthritis. Acetaminophen is often prescribed to treat mild to moderate aches. However, an overdose of acetaminophen can lead to liver damage and even death in some cases.
Some of the potential side effects associated with the use of NSAIDs include:
People with stomach ulcers should avoid using NSAIDs for pain relief.
What are strong pain relievers?
Opioids work by binding to the central nervous system and changing your perception of pain, reducing pain sensations and increasing your tolerance for pain. These drugs may be prescribed for severe injuries, surgery, or cancer.
Side effects of opioids include:
- Dry mouth
- Interaction with other medications
- Dependency and addiction
Opioids are generally prescribed only as a last resort because they can be addictive.
What precautions should you take when it comes to pain medications?
Painkillers should be taken only as prescribed by your medical advisor.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids can damage your liver and other organs. Prolonged use of painkillers also increases the risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure, and other health complications. Taking painkillers such as NSAIDs and opioids during early pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects.
If you develop allergic reactions or observe symptoms such as blurred vision, urinary tract infections, difficulty breathing, slurred speech, numbness, paralysis, or severe gastrointestinal distress, seek medical assistance immediately.
Children and people with a history of chronic conditions should consult their doctors before changing or trying a new pain medication.
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acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children's Fever/Pain)
Acetaminophen is a drug that reduces fever and relieves pain. It is available alone, or in combination with hundreds of other drugs available both over-the-counter (without a prescription) or that that may require a prescription from your doctor, for example, acetaminophen and hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco) or acetaminophen and oxycodone (Percocet).
Acetaminophen treats a variety of diseases or other medical problems that cause pain or fever. Examples of conditions acetaminophen treats include, headache, minor arthritis pain, back pain, tooth pain, menstrual cramps, PMS, osteoarthritis, common cold, tension headache, chronic pain, hip pain, shoulder and neck pain, sore throat, sinus infection, teething, TMJ, bites and stings, and sprains and strains.
Acetaminophen generally has no side effects when taken as prescribed. When side effects are experienced, the most common are headache, rash, and nausea.
In 2014, the FDA recommended that doctors and other health care professionals only prescribe acetaminophen in doses of 325 mg or less. This warning highlights the potential for allergic reactions, for example, face, mouth, and throat swelling, difficulty breathing, itching, or rash. This action also will help reduce the risk of severe liver injury and serious allergic reactions associated with this drug. Other possible serious side effects adverse effects include anemia, kidney damage, thrombocytopenia (a reduced number of platelets in the blood), and liver problems.
Other patient information. Do not take more than one product that contains acetaminophen at the same time. Do not take more than one acetaminophen-containing drug than directed. Do not drink alcohol while taking medicine that contains acetaminophen due to severe liver damage.
REFERENCE: FDA Prescribing Information.
Acetaminophen vs. Ibuprofen for Pain (Differences in Side Effects and Dosage)Acetaminophen (Tylenol and many other brand names is an pain reliever (analgesic) and fever reducer (antipyretic ). Scientists do not know the exact mechanism of action of acetaminophen. Ibuprofen (Advil) is an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) used for the treat inflammation, fever, and mild pain. Ibuprofen works in relieving mild pain, inflammation, and fever by blocking an enzyme that makes chemicals released in the body that promote inflammation (prostaglandins). Prostaglandins promote inflammation in the body.
Common side effects of both acetaminophen and ibuprofen include rash, nausea, and headache. Side effects specific to acetaminophen include kidney damage, anemia, thrombocytopenia, serious skin reactions, and liver failure. Side effects of specific to ibuprofen include tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, drowsiness, stomach pain, constipation, and heartburn. Dosage depends upon whether the person using acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
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Aspirin vs. Tylenol (acetaminophen)
Aspirin and Tylenol (acetaminophen) are used to treat fever, and pain in the body. Aspirin is also used to prevent blood clots (antithrombotic). Aspirin and Tylenol belong to different drug classes. Aspirin is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and Tylenol is an analgesic (pain reliever) and antipyretic (fever reducer).
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Benzodiazepines vs. Narcotics (Opioids)
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants that cause drowsiness and are used to treat insomnia, seizures, anxiety disorders, nervousness, panic disorders, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal, status epilepticus, premenstrual syndrome, and as sedation during surgery. Narcotic (opioid) analgesics are used to treat moderate to severe pain. Both benzodiazepines and narcotics (opioids) are common drugs of abuse.
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