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What Kind of Pain Reliever Is Best for Me?

March 28, 2016

With so many over the counter pain relievers to choose from, sometimes it's hard to know which is the right pain reliever for your condition. Here, Dr. Amy Shipley, MD, a family medicine doctor with Duke Primary Care Croasdaile, offers her opinion on which over-the-counter pain medication you should take when you have aches and pain, fever and inflammation.

What to Take for Fever, Pain, Arthritis

“Acetaminophen is is my first-line medication for fever and pain, as well as arthritis. If your fever or pain returns before your next dose is due, you can try ibuprofen until your next dose of acetaminophen.” 

Precautions - Do not take acetaminophen if you have ever had cirrhosis or if you drink more than three alcoholic beverages per day.

What to Take for Muscle Pain, Joint Pain and Sports Injuries

Ibuprofen (trade names are Advil, Motrin, Midol) "targets inflammation, so it is particularly helpful for muscle pain, joint pain and sports injuries. For the winter, ibuprofen really comes in handy for sore throats.” 

Precautions - Ibuprofen can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke, especially if you use it long term, take high doses, or have heart disease.

“Naproxen [Aleve] and ibuprofen are better for inflammation and muscle strains. A bonus of Naproxen is you can take it twice a day versus every 4 to 6 hours like with acetaminophen. This can be more convenient for many people.” 

Precautions - May increase your risk of heart attack or stroke, especially if you use it long term or have heart disease. If you have had a stomach ulcer or gastritis, talk to your doctor before taking naproxen. 

What to Take to Prevent Heart Attacks

“The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends aspirin to help prevent heart attacks in some groups of patients. Patients should talk to their doctor to see if they fall in one of those groups.” 

Precautions - Don't use aspirin if you have a bleeding disorder. Don't use in children.

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