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Self: What’s the Best Pain Reliever You Can Buy at the Pharmacy?

Self recently interviewed Cedars-Sinai hospitalist Nicole Van Groningen, MD, about the pain relievers that best treat migraines, period cramps, fevers and other common complaints.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) are one type of pain reliever that includes medications such as ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). These pain relievers can treat pain from muscle aches and stiffness, inflammation from injuries, and menstrual cramps. 

“For women with significant menstrual pain and predictable periods, I recommend starting ibuprofen and naproxen a day or two before your period starts,” Van Groningen told Self. Taking an NSAID like ibuprofen before the pain begins can help women stay ahead of the pain. But Van Groningen advised those with a history of G.I. or kidney issues to avoid this class of drug entirely due to its side effects.

Acetaminophen is another type of pain reliever that works best on headaches, minor aches and pains, and fevers. Unlike NSAIDs, acetaminophen won’t cause stomach issues but can still be harmful if overused. “Be careful taking it if you’re taking cold and flu medications,” Van Groningen told Self. “These often contain acetaminophen, so if you’re taking max doses of acetaminophen and cold medicine, you could be overdoing it and risking liver damage.”

For a mild headache, acetaminophen and ibuprofen both can be effective. Van Groningen recommended taking whichever medication offers the best relief. But it's best to only take them a few times a week. “If you’re taking these medications more than that, it can lead to a medication overuse headache, which only goes away when you stop taking the medication,” Van Groningen told Self.

For more severe pain, such as intense and throbbing head pain, sharp jolts after a fall, or abdominal pain, patients should visit the emergency room, urgent care or their primary care doctor.

Click here to read the complete article from Self