What Is Acetaminophen?
Acetaminophen is an FDA-approved over-the-counter pain reliever that has been used since 1955 and is sold under a number of different brand and product names including Tylenol.
How Does Acetaminophen Work?
Scientists still don't fully understand how acetaminophen works to alleviate pain, but most believe that the medication helps to prevent the production of chemicals that your body uses to send pain signals to your brain. Doctors recommend acetaminophen primarily for mild to moderate pain that is not caused by inflammation. It may also be recommended for individuals who frequently develop stomach discomfort from other over-the-counter pain relievers. Acetaminophen has been linked to liver damage when taken in large doses and in some individuals who use it for long periods of time, so it may not be safe for everyone.
What Are NSAIDs?
NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are a class of FDA-approved pain relievers that includes both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium are all examples of NSAIDs that can be purchased and used for pain without a prescription.
How Is Ibuprofen Different From Acetaminophen?
NSAIDs differ from acetaminophen in that they not only interfere with the transmission of pain signals, but they also alleviate inflammation or swelling. Aspirin is the oldest of the NSAIDs and is sometimes recommended for use not as a pain reliever but for its blood-thinning abilities. Both ibuprofen and naproxen sodium are sold in generic forms as well as under different brand names. Keep in mind that NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation and may pose additional health risks if used continually.
Are There Natural Pain Relievers?
Natural pain relievers are products that use extracts from plants and other natural elements to address pain symptoms. Topical natural pain relievers often contain ingredients like menthol and eucalyptus, which may cool the skin and increase circulation to the tissue. These products may be recommended by your physician for muscle soreness, fatigue and mild injuries.
Oral natural pain relief products are not evaluated for effectiveness by the FDA. They contain herbs that have been used as folk remedies or plant extracts that are used as treatments in the natural healing practice of homeopathy. While some of the ingredients in oral natural pain relievers have been shown in studies to have anti-inflammatory abilities, there is not enough information to know if any natural pain reliever is effective for all people.
Choosing the Right Active Ingredient
If you're not sure which pain relief active ingredient is right for you, talk to a medical professional. Which type is best for your needs will depend on the cause of your pain, the severity of your pain, your medical history and what other medications and supplements you take. Never take any new natural or medicinal product without first consulting your doctor, and be sure to let your physician know about any new pain that you're experiencing before self-treating with an over-the-counter medication or natural product.
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