Both acetaminophens and ibuprofen are considered safe, highly effective treatments for pain relief. Recent studies confirm the long-held belief that acetaminophen and ibuprofen carry near-equal efficacy for both the reduction of moderate to severe pain, and for the treatment of fever. However, one key fact to keep in mind is that acetaminophens have virtually no effect on inflammation. This clearly shows that both drugs, despite their individual risks, also have defined purposes.
Here we will be taking a closer look at a comparison between acetaminophen and ibuprofen, highlighting their uses, side-effects (both short & long-term) and areas of highest efficacy.
An Overview of Acetaminophen
With Aspirin leading the way, acetaminophen, otherwise known as paracetamol, is the second longest standing painkiller used by modern medicine. Acetaminophen is sold over-the-counter in the form of many brands including Tylenol, Nyquil, Sinutab, and Panadol. Unlike the anti-inflammatory properties of ibuprofen, acetaminophens have very little actual healing properties. They simply relieve pain due to switching off the brain’s mechanism allowing you to perceive that given pain.
An Overview of Ibuprofen
On the other end of our timeline, we have Ibuprofen, the second youngest of the three major non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Its treatment uses include easing inflammation, pain, and fever, being especially useful for the pain associated with menstruation, as well as migraines and arthritis. It is faster acting and longer lasting than medications containing acetaminophens. However, the pain relief properties are near equal.
When to Use Acetaminophens
Acetaminophens are best used for the treatment of headaches and pain arising from musculoskeletal issues. When the source of your pain does not involve inflammation, this is the best drug to use.
• Headaches & Migraines
• Arthritis (Relieves pain but does not affect the underlying inflammation)
• Musculoskeletal Pain
When to Use Ibuprofen
Ibuprofen is a far more effective antipyretic treatment than acetaminophens. This is mainly due to the symptoms of fever arising from heightened inflammation in the body. Its composition granting analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties makes it the best treatment for the following common conditions:
• Menstrual Cramps
• General Backache
• Muscle Pain
Complications Arising from Acetaminophen & Ibuprofen
Despite both drugs being deemed safe enough to sell over the counter, each does come with its own unique set of consequences. Ibuprofen has extensive studies confirming the potential long-term risk of gastrointestinal and renal toxicity. An FDA report analyzed non-prescription use of ibuprofen and found that even though it has the lowest risk of gastrointestinal and renal toxicity of all NSAIDs, ibuprofen does bring a marginal increase in complications arising through chronic use. Their research also concluded that if you maintain a dosage of fewer than 1200 mg per day, the risk of renal and gastrointestinal complications arising is negligible.
Surprisingly, the long-running favorite painkiller, acetaminophens, received a request from the FDA to limit the strength due to the high-risk profile of severe liver injury and allergic reactions resulting from long-term use. However, over-the-counter products containing acetaminophens are not affected by this due to the content being at a safe level. Any over-the-counter acetaminophen-based product will list any potential liver injury, should it be possible. Be sure to check your labels. This overview, therefore, ascertains that acetaminophens are thus the safest long-term pain-relief solution.
Short-Term Side-Effects of Acetaminophens
If you experience any immediate side-effects to acetaminophens, then cease using them immediately. In such instances, further professional medical assistance is recommended as soon as possible. In this regard, here are some of the most common allergic reactions to acetaminophens that you may experience:
• Mild to moderate fever
• Nausea & Stomach Pain
• Loss of Appetite
• Darkened Urine
• Discoloration of Stool
• Swelling of the Face, Mouth & Throat
• Difficulty Breathing
It must be noted that these are merely example of the symptoms or reactions associated with Acetaminophens and if in doubt, it is always best to contact your local practitioner for an accurate diagnosis.
Short-Term Side-Effects of Ibuprofen
While acute side effects of ibuprofen can include conditions as severe as bleeding gums, blood pressure increases, seizures and hair loss, these symptoms are rare. The most common short-term side effects of ibuprofen use, indicating that you should stop using it and possibly seek medical attention, are:
• Vomiting, Diarrhea and General Gastro-Intestinal Discomfort
• Constipation & Bloating
• Itchiness & Rash
• Ringing in Your Ears
• Heads & Nervous Tension
• Cloudy Urine
• Constant Full Feeling
Essential Considerations for Both Treatments
Neither ibuprofen nor acetaminophens should be taken while drinking alcohol as the result of liver toxicity grows greatly. The risk of liver toxicity is highest when combining acetaminophens with alcohol. It shows that you should not take acetaminophens at all if you are drinking three alcoholic beverages per day. Never mix different drugs. It is perfectly fine to take both acetaminophens and ibuprofen but sticks to one brand of each. Studies show that the use of acetaminophens and ibuprofen together, are preferable and more efficient than steroidal and opiate-based treatments. Although blending two different types of either drug increases the risk of complications and allergic reactions arising.
When administering either medication to children, the risk profile and treatment effectiveness are near equal, however, due to the small margin for overdose when using ibuprofen to treat children between the ages of six months and twelve years, acetaminophens are your safer option.
Acetaminophens vs. Ibuprofen – Which is better?
While Acetaminophens reduces body aching, pain, and fever, it has no effect regarding inflammation. For this reason alone, Ibuprofen is often a preferred option for anyone considering their options between these two pain killers. Overall, Ibuprofen is also more powerful and is likely to last a lot longer than Acetaminophens. Considering this and the fact that ibuprofen reduces the amount of redness or swelling is often the reason why it may be considered a better option.
At the same time, the requirements are different in each individual circumstance and as already mentioned, if in doubt, the best way to proceed is to speak with a professional for the most accurate advice.