Having patients come into our clinic with headaches, back aches, and whole body pain, one question that most people will ask is: “What is the difference between Aspirin, Tylenol and Ibuprofen, and what should I take?”
Well, I’ve done all the hard research for you and condensed it into this little blog for you.
Aspirin, sold as Bayer or Bufferin, is absorbed into the bloodstream and essentially looks for areas where we feel pain. Aspirin is used to treat headaches of all sizes, to suppress minor body aches and pains, and to reduce inflammation when we're sore. But it's rough on the upper digestive tract (can cause upset stomach, heartburn, and even dyspepsia), it's bad for hemophiliacs, and it's not safe for kids.
Ibuprofen, sold as Motrin or Advil, is chemically similar to regular aspirin and functions in a similar way. In lower doses, ibuprofen seems to irritate the esophagus and stomach lining less than aspirin and naproxen. If you have ulcers or acid reflux disease, ibuprofen may be the best product for pain clearly resulting from inflammation (arthritis, sprains, sunburns, etc.).
Naproxen, sold as Aleve, is especially effective as an anti-inflammatory agent. For arthritis, sprains, sunburns, and other inflammation-based pain, naproxen seems to edge its competition. Many women suffering from menstrual cramps also report that naproxen is more effective than standard aspirin. Also, similar doses of this over-the-counter pain reliever tend to last longer, often for 8-12 hours instead of 4-8 hours.
Acetaminophen, sold as Tylenol, lowers fevers and soothes headaches effectively, but it is not an anti-inflammatory substance. As a result, it won't do much for arthritis or sprains. It is less irritating to the lining of the stomach, making it the best headache treatment for people with acid reflux disease, ulcers, and the like.
Be aware that because its usual dosage for pain relief and its overdose amount are not incredibly different, some doctors consider acetaminophen to be more dangerous than aspirin, arguing that it is easier to overdose unintentionally which can cause kidney and liver failure leading to death. It is among the most overdosed drugs in the world. You should not take more than 4,000 mg of acetaminophen a day. There is no home treatment for an overdose. Always seek professional medical help immediately.
As an alternative health care professional, I don't usually like to recommend the use of these over-the-counter drugs. In my opinion, however, do whatever you have to do to get through your day, but I would highly suggest trying a less invasive type of treatment such as chiropractic or herbal supplementation instead.