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Which Pain Medication Should I Take?

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The different types of pain medications can be confusing. How do you know which one to take? Is ibuprofen the same as aspirin? Can you combine two pain medications? Aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen are three of the most common over-the-counter pain relievers in the world. Ibuprofen is also known by brand names Advil and Motrin, and naproxen goes by the name brand Aleve. While ibuprofen and naproxen have very similar reactions when taken and the same side effects, ibuprofen can be taken every six to eight hours while naproxen needs to be spaced out to every twelve hours. Although it has the same side effects, aspirin works a little differently than the previous two pain medications. You can take it every six hours. It is not safe to mix naproxen and ibuprofen, but if you’re still in pain after taking one type of medication, you can combine any of the three with acetaminophen.

Aspirin is a special non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that has anti-clotting properties. There are risks of bleeding, though, so it’s often a choice for other issues rather than to relieve pain, like to prevent heart attacks.

Perhaps the most popular choice, ibuprofen is a fast-acting medication with little risks of stomach or kidney problems that doesn’t stay it the system for too long. Even babies as small as six months old can take ibuprofen if given the proper dose.

Finally, naproxen lasts longer to relieve pain and has fewer side effects on your heart than other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If you are experiencing a migraine headache or period cramps, naproxen is your best bet for pain medication. However, it shouldn’t be given to children under the age of two.

“Many people assume that because these drugs are sold over the counter, they are completely safe. But they can also have consequences that are important to understand,” according to Elliot Antman professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Boston’s Brigham and Woman’s Hospital. Although the side effects vary by pain medication, a few of them are the same. The most common are nausea, stomachache, diarrhea, and heartburn, but a few are more serious, like stomach ulcers, allergic reactions, and an increase in your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, liver or kidney disease, bleeding issues, or take blood thinners or blood pressure medication, there’s a higher risk of side effects if you take non-steroidal ant-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. If you have current medical conditions, it’s important to ask your doctor which pain medication is right for you.

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