Which Pain Reliever Is Best?

April 3, 2014

Woman With PillsSometimes natural pain relief isn’t enough—but what’s the safest pain reliever?

You may have seen headlines about oxycontin, and how it’s caused a surge in addiction. But we’re talking about over-the-counter pain relievers. Aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. What are the pros and cons of each?

IbuProfen (Advil and Motrin): The pro is that this is considered safe for many special circumstances. The con is that a few years ago a study found a strong correlation between taking ibuprofen and hearing loss—and the more participants took, the more likely they were to experience hearing problems.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Acetaminophen isn’t an NSAID like ibuprofen and aspirin, and that has both advantages (fewer side-effects) and disadvantages (fewer benefits—it’s not anti-inflammatory). It also has some big health risks—mostly, it can be very damaging for your liver, and is responsible for tens of thousands of hospitalizations yearly. A new study has also come out saying that when taken during pregnancy there’s a link to ADHD.

Aspirin (Bayer or Generic): Aspirin has two drawbacks—it’s not safe for children/pregnant women, and it can cause gastrointestinal bleeding (one study found that also taking Vitamin C combated this effect). But it has a lot of benefits: doctors recommend it to many patients for heart health, it lowers inflammation, and it may even lower the risk for certain types of cancer (a recent study found that regular aspirin doses lowered the risk of bowel cancer). And contrary to acetaminophen, it may actually protect your liver.

Don’t like your options? Go natural! If you have an injury or chronic pain, talk to a doctor or physical therapist about which treatments are safe. Hot/cold (a shower and an ice pack, or Dakota Muscle Relief), rest, drinking more water, resting, and mild exercise can fix a range of problems.

Share your thoughts—which pain reliever is best? What natural pain relief do you rely on?

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