Open Accessibility Menu

Managing Pain: Using Acetaminophen & Ibuprofen

We have all lived with pain at some point in our lives. It is commonly accepted that everyone experiences pain differently. Pain can be caused by many different factors. It is complex and differs from person to person.

Similarly, the treatments used to address pain also vary. When using medication to treat pain, healthcare providers may prescribe medications like over-the-counter pain relievers, or even medications that treat anxiety, nausea, or muscle spasms.

At first glance, these medications may not seem like they would be effective in addressing chronic pain; however, when used in combination with other therapies, these medications may disrupt the pain cycle. In contrast, opioid medications do not disrupt the pain cycle. Instead, they just mask the pain and do nothing to treat or help the pain.

For many of us, our first experience with pain is a headache, some muscle aches, or menstrual cycle pain. For these types of pain, we often resort to over-the-counter remedies to find some relief. Most commonly, people will reach for acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (i.e. Advil), which are very safe and effective pain medications for most mild to moderate, acute pain. Both medications are also very useful in the treatment of chronic pain, often used to supplement other therapies.

When there is an injury or source of pain, acetaminophen blocks the pain impulse or pain message to the brain. By doing this, the body is able to effectively heal without the magnitude of pain allowing us to participate in daily activities or even therapies. Ibuprofen works at the site of the injury to block the pain message and decrease inflammation or swelling that can cause more pain. Because both of these medications work differently than others, they may be used in combination with other medications to get more benefit.

Before taking any medication to treat pain, whether prescription or over-the-counter, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider or a pharmacist for recommended dosing.

This information is provided by Mile Bluff’s Opioid Stewardship committee. Opioid stewardship is a coordinated program that identifies and uses the best practices to optimize the appropriate use of opioid medications while minimizing the negative impact opioids can have on a patient.

Public education is part of an opioid stewardship program. Throughout the year, we will be sharing information about our stewardship efforts and how we all can do our part to impact the opioid epidemic in our country.