The best OTC pain reliever for: Headache
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, that works to reduce inflammation. If you have a headache, ibuprofen is the best treatment option, although if you are pregnant or are prone to ulcers, you may not want to take ibuprofen. Instead, take acetaminophen, which does not reduce inflammation, but sends a message to pain receptors. (Related: Migraines? Avoid these 13 foods that are known to cause headaches.)
The best OTC pain reliever for: Fever
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the pain reliever for regulating the body temperature and relieving any aches and pains which come with a fever. It is also considered the safest medication for children. While acetaminophen does not cause stomach irritation, it should not be used by those who drink alcohol regularly, and if you are taking acetaminophen, make sure to drink more water than usual as it can dehdyrate and tax the kidneys.
The best OTC pain reliever for: Backache
If your back is in pain after heavy lifting or other physical exertion, naproxen is the recommended pain reliever. This NSAID differs from ibuprofen and aspirin in that it takes longer to work, but its pain-relieving effect lasts longer, making it the better choice for deeper aches and pains. You could also try an over-the-counter transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device (Aleve Direct Therapy TENS). It works by electrical nerve stimulation that can block pain receptors and triggers your body to release endorphins, your body’s natural pain blockers. Learn the exercises that can make your back pain better.
The best OTC pain reliever for: Menstrual cramps
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To alleviate the pain of menstrual cramps most effectively, take ibuprofen. This NSAID is the best option to calm the cramping of the uterus. Begin taking the medication as soon as cramps begin, even before menstruation starts, and do not take for more than one or two days. If you are still in pain, it is time to speak with your doctor about other treatment options or try one of these unexpected period pain relievers.
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The best OTC pain reliever for: Arthritis
Ibuprofen was developed with the purpose of treating arthritis. The anti-inflammatory properties reduce swelling, which is the cause of aches and pains associated with arthritis. It has fewer side effects than aspirin, although it can cause stomach irritation. (Related: Check out these 23 home remedies for arthritis pain.)
The best OTC pain reliever for: Exercise recovery
After a rigorous workout, if you experience muscle aches and pains, naproxen (Aleve) is the best pain reliever to address them. Much like backaches, these pains require a longer-lasting treatment. Just be aware that they may also cause stomach upset, so take them sparingly. Find out these other ways to treat minor muscle pain.
The best OTC pain reliever for: Toothache
If you are safe taking aspirin, it is the best OTC pain reliever to address toothaches. Among aspirin's many roles, it is an NSAID which reduces inflammation. Millions take it as a blood thinner meant to prevent heart attacks and strokes, but this is also reason to take caution when using. Children should never take aspirin due to an increased risk of Reye’s syndrome, a very serious illness. Read more about home remedies for toothaches.