Ask Your Pharmacist: Should I take Advil or Tylenol for pain?


Pain is one of the most common symptoms that people seek to relieve by self-treating with over-the-counter (OTC) products. Pain is also a symptom that causes many people seek further medical attention. You may ask yourself, should I go to the doctor or can I take an over-the-counter pain medication?

Before you decide to take medication to relieve your pain, check this list to determine if going to the doctor for further evaluation is appropriate.

Seek Medical Attention If You:

  1. Have severe pain (pain of ≥6/10 on the pain scale)
  2. Have pain that lasts 10 days or more
  3. Have pain that continues despite 7 days of the use of a topical (cream, ointment, gel) pain reliever
  4. Notice an increased intensity or change in character of the pain
  5. Have pelvic or abdominal pain (other than menstrual pain or cramps)
  6. Also have nausea, vomiting, fever, or other signs of infection or disorder
  7. Have a visually deformed joint, abnormal movement, weakness in any limb, numbness or suspected fracture
  8. Are pregnant
  9. Are looking to treat pain in someone <2 years of age


There are only a few brands, but many generic OTC pain relievers. The following is a chart to help you determine which products have the same active ingredients. Ask your pharmacist what generic pain reliever is equivalent to the brand that you are familiar with and if that product is appropriate for you.

Brand ($$$) Generic ($)
Tylenol Acetaminophen
Advil, Motrin Ibuprofen
Aleve Naproxen

Acetaminophen is the most commonly used pain reliever in the world. It may be a good choice to treat headaches, arthritis pain, and fever. Acetaminophen is typically safe for healthy individuals when taken in small to moderate doses. In large doses acetaminophen can lead to liver failure or death.

Ibuprofen and naproxen are medications from the same class that are used to treat pain and swelling/inflammation. For example, menstrual cramps, headaches, toothaches, backaches, arthritis, muscle sprains, and gout are all short-term medical conditions that are associated with pain and swelling that can be reduced by ibuprofen and naproxen.

Ibuprofen and naproxen should be used for the shortest amount of time and at lowest dose possible to provide pain relief. Long-term use may lead to heart issues, high blood pressure, stomach/ intestinal bleeding and kidney damage.

Many people think that these pain medications are completely so they commonly used without recognizing the potential risks. Generally, they are safe to use, but not for everyone. You should consult your pharmacist when selecting an over-the-counter pain medication if you are taking one of the following medications or if you have one of the following medical conditions in order to avoid drug interactions or complications to your medical condition.

When to Avoid Ibuprofen or Naproxen:
Medical Condition Also Taking
·      High Blood Pressure
·      Kidney Disease
·      Heart Failure
·      After a Heart Attack
·      Stomach Ulcers
·      Asthma
·      Over 65 years of age
·   ACE inhibitors: (lisinopril, enalapril, benazepril)
·   ARB: (losartan, olmesartan)
·   Beta Blockers: (metoprolol, bisoprolol, carvedilol, atenolol)
·   Diuretics: (hydrochlorothiazide [HCTZ], chlorithalidone, triamterene)
·   Anticoagulants: (warfarin, Xarelto, Eliquis, Pradaxa, Saavaysa)
·   phenytoin
·   alendronate
·   digoxin
·   methotrexateAny other prescription NSAID: (meloxicam, piroxicam, diclofenac, celecoxib) Use caution if you also taking aspirin
When to Avoid Acetaminophen:
Medical Condition Also Taking

·      Liver Disease
·      Alcoholism

·   warfarin
·   ≥3 alcoholic drinks/day
·   Other medications containing acetaminophen:
Ø  Common ingredient in OTC sleep aids and cough/cold products
Ø  Ingredient in many prescription pain medications (opioids)
Any other medication containing acetaminophen – the maximum total daily dose of acetaminophen from all medications is 4000 mg 
   *The list of medical conditions and medications above is not a complete list. You should talk to your pharmacist about other any questions or concerns regarding this list.*





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