The primary over-the-counter non-NSAID, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, pain medication is acetaminophen, according to WebMD. Narcotic pain relievers are not NSAIDs, but prescription drug formulas commonly combine narcotics with either NSAID or non-NSAID drugs for more thorough pain relief.
Acetaminophen is effective for aches, pain and fever, but it does not contain the anti-inflammatory properties of NSAIDs, reports MedlinePlus. Doctors often prescribe acetaminophen for the treatment of arthritis. It is easier on the stomach and generally has fewer side effects than NSAIDs. Adults should take no more than 3,000 milligrams of acetaminophen per day.
Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol, Excedrin Tension Headache and some over-the-counter cold and flu medications, as well as the generics of these medications, notes WebMD. As hidden dosages of acetaminophen may exist in cold and flu medications, those taking over-the-counter drugs should always read medication labels carefully, cautions Harvard Medical School.