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How to Choose a Painkiller

Life can be a pain sometimes!

At times like these we normally reach for the bottle of painkillers that is. By adulthood, most of us have a preferred analgesia, usually passed down from parents, but have you ever considered why some are more effective in treating one type of pain than others? This brief comparison will help you to make an informed choice the next time you need a bit of pain management.

Aspirin(acetylsalicylic acid) is the first discovered non steroidal anti-inflammatory(NSAID). Its strengths are reduction of inflammation, bringing down temperature in fever, and thinning the blood. The latter is the reason that it is taken by millions each day as prevention against stroke and heart attack (caused by blood clots). If the blood is thinner there’s less chance of clots. This is normally taken in a half dose, slow release tablet form to increase safety. However, because NSAIDs do thin the blood, there is an increased risk of them causing bleeding; especially if the person who takes it is at risk anyway, i.e. haemophiliacs, people with ulcers (which they may not be aware of) and heavy drinkers (who often suffer from hangovers and so may take painkillers frequently). It may also cause an increase in blood pressure.

Though unconfirmed, aspirin has been accused of causing Reye’s syndrome in children under 12 and is therefore best avoided in these minors. This syndrome causes hypoglycaemia (lowered blood sugar levels), kidney changes, possibility of developing a fatty, enlarged, firm liver and encephalopathy (brain swelling). These symptoms are all able to be treated if discovered in time but may lead to permanent brain damage causing incapacity or even death in severe cases.

On a web site comparison chart the overall effectiveness rating for pain was 5.8 out of 10.

Tylenol (acetaminophen, paracetamol) it is not an NSAID and so does not have the NSAIDs possible side effects which is why it is the drug of choice for many. Paracetamol reduces fever and is an effective pain killer but has no anti-inflammatory properties. While being a safe drug when taken in the correct doses, it becomes much more dangerous when overdose occurs.

Unfortunately, suicide attempts as a cry for help in teenagers are often done with this drug and if taken above 1000 mg per single dose (4 tablets), above 4000 mg per day for adults though only above 2000 mg per day if drinking alcohol the effects can be lethal because of irreversible liver damage.

For severe pain, paracetamol is often combined with codeine and is an extremely effective method of pain control, though once again, dangerous if abused. The main message is that it works very well and safely if taken at the correct doses but should not be abused.

The overall effectiveness rating for paracetamol in the poll was 7.4 out of 10.

Advil (ibuprofen) is another drug that has been around for a long time though not as long as paracetamol or aspirin. It was developed in the 1960s and is also an NSAID and so therefore has the same possible side effects as aspirin, though has not been associated with Reyes syndrome. It is a more stable compound than aspirin and can thus be made in gel form which is useful for arthritic pain and sports injuries.

Overall rating in the internet poll was 8 out of 10.

Aleve (naproxen sodium) is another in the NSAID group. It has been marketed very well for period pain and gives good relief for this as well as other inflammatory conditions. It does still have the NSAID possibility of side effects.

Overall rating in the internet poll was 6.4 out of 10.

In summary:

Paracetamol is safe if taken in correct doses and reduces temperature and eases pain but does not have any anti inflammatory properties.

Reduced strength aspirin is useful for thinning the blood and preventing strokes and heart attacks. Full strength has anti-inflammatory properties, but may cause bleeding and higher blood pressure.

Ibuprofen and naproxen sodium are effective in inflammatory conditions and muscle cramps but may cause bleeding and raised blood pressure.