The Best Pain Relievers?

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Harvard Medical School
Chrome 2001
Chrome 2001

The Best Pain Relievers?

Heart and Circulatory
Aspirin — The Wonder Pill
The Best Pain Relievers?
The Best Pain Relievers?
Aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen? It all depends on what ails you.
InteliHealth Medical Content

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

The Best Pain Reliever?

One of the most confusing questions at the drug store is what pain reliever to use — aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or another type?

Each pain reliever is chemically distinct, and we all respond differently to them depending on our own body chemistry and the particular problem we are experiencing. An individual may respond to one pain reliever but not to another.

Work closely with your pharmacist or physician to determine which medication in which dosages might be best for you. Whichever pain reliever you choose, don't exceed the dosage recommended on the label without consulting your doctor.

Here are some basic differences:

Acetaminophen (Tylenol, generic brands)

  • Controls pain well and can bring down a fever.
  • Gentler on the stomach than aspirin.
  • Does not control inflammation.
  • Can cause liver damage if taken in high doses, especially in people who drink large amounts of alcohol regularly.

Aspirin (any brand)

  • Controls pain, inflammation and fever.
  • Should not be taken by people with nasal polyps and asthma or anyone taking a blood-thinning medication without medical advice.
  • Should not be given to children who may have a viral illness.
  • Harshest on the stomach. Can cause gastric irritation, ulcers and bleeding.

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, generic brands)

  • Controls pain, inflammation and fever.
  • Works well against menstrual cramps.
  • Can cause gastric irritation and bleeding.
  • Interferes with blood clotting but to a lesser degree than aspirin.


How Aspirin Works   Aspirin Timeline
Potential Hazards   The Best Pain Reliever?


Last updated May 17, 2006

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