What Over-the-Counter Medication Is Best for Severe Pain?


Quick Answer

The primary difference in over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Tylenol, Advil and Aleve, and prescription pain killers is the amount of active medication contained in each pill, says MedicineNet.com. Advil, for example, contains 200 milligrams of ibuprofen per tablet, while a prescription dosage is typically 600 to 800 milligrams.

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What Over-the-Counter Medication Is Best for Severe Pain?
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Full Answer

The most common over-the-counter pain medications are acetaminophen products, such as Tylenol, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including Advil, Motrin and Aleve. Acetaminophen eases the sensation of pain by blocking pain receivers in the brain, while NSAIDs reduce the production of hormone-like prostaglandins that cause painful sensations, according to WebMD. Acetaminophen is typically easier on a patient's stomach, but NSAIDs also relieve inflammation which boosts the medication's ability to alleviate pain.

Muscle aches, joint pains and sore muscles are most effectively treated with NSAIDs because of the anti-inflammatory properties, but individuals react differently to each type. This means that Aleve may alleviate one patient's shoulder pain while Motrin provides the quickest relief for another. Severe pain that is not eased by prescription-level doses of over-the-counter pain relievers may require a stronger class of prescription medication. Patients who suffer from long-term or chronic pain should discuss the most effective pain management options with their physician, recommends WebMD.

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