Pain is one of the most challenging symptoms to treat. It can be caused by many different things such as heat, cold, pressure, traction, inflammation, and nerve damage. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicines offer a wide variety of treatment options for the various types of pain. It’s important to understand the cause of your pain in order to choose the best medicine(s) to treat it. I’ll review some of the most common types of pain, and explain which active ingredients are best suited to provide relief.
- Know the types of over-the-counter pain medication offered. There are three types of over-the-counter pain (OTC) medication: aspirin, acetaminophen and NSAIDs. Aspirin fights pain, reduces fever and has anti-inflammatory properties. Acetaminophen is used for pain relief. NSAIDs manage pain, reduce fever and are anti-inflammatory. Anti-inflammatory drugs work to reduce swelling and are helpful in cases of arthritis, gout and joint pain.
- Understand how OTC pain medications work. Aspirin and NSAIDs work in the same manner, and treat the same symptoms. These OTC’s reduce fever, diminish pain and are anti-inflammatory. Acetaminophen helps with pain. If your muscles are sore from exercising, the best choice would be acetaminophen or aspirin. If you suffer from arthritis or gout, take an NSAID for its anti-inflammatory properties. For reducing fever and general pain, all OTC pain medicines are fine. If you are reducing fever in a child, however, choose acetaminophen or an NSAID. For headaches, acetaminophen is the best choice.
- Talk with your doctor. If you have other medical conditions or are confused about what type of OTC pain medicine is best for you, speak with your physician. He or she knows your complete history and can give you the best advice.
- Manage your pain. Many OTC pain medicines offer extra-strength versions. If your pain is strong, consider taking a higher dose via the extra-strength counterpart of the pain medication. Also know that if you are fighting arthritis, joint pain or a bad headache, a long-lasting product is a better choice than taking another dose every four to six hours. For regular use, however, always take the smallest dose possible.
- Understand contraindications. Read labels and know about any medications you are currently taking before using OTC drugs. Some drugs do not work with others and will cause you to have negative side effects if they are taken together. In extreme cases, you can overdose. If you have any questions, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.