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How Do I Choose the Best Analgesic?

By Patti Kate
Updated May 17, 2024
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Analgesics may be taken orally or applied topically, to relieve symptoms such as pain, inflammation, and fever. If you suffer from pain and inflammation of arthritis or tendinitis, consider taking an anti-inflammatory analgesic, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Ibuprofen and aspirin might irritate the stomach, although acetaminophen is less likely to cause gastric irritation. Some analgesics, such as aspirin, could cause serious side effects if taken while on blood-thinning drugs. If you're taking other medications or have allergies, consult with a health care provider before using any analgesic.

Consider the source of your pain before choosing an analgesic. If you tend to suffer from recurring headaches or migraines, you may need a prescription medication. Some over-the-counter analgesics work fairly well, and are available in extra-strength or time-released formulas. A time-released formula containing naproxen generally requires less frequent dosing.

With time-released analgesics, you may only need to take one dose every 12-24 hours. If choosing a medication that contains the drug naproxen, read warning labels carefully. If you're on a sodium-restricted diet, keep in mind that some products may contain sodium for extra absorption. If you don't mind having to take a pill every four to six hours, you can choose regular or extra-strength acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Some analgesic pain relievers may cause serious side effects if taken with alcohol. Pregnant or nursing women should also use caution when considering analgesics. As always, read the packaging for warnings or consult with your physician if you have concerns.

Many analgesic products contain added ingredients to for multi-symptom relief. If you require pain relief from sinus pressure and congestion, consider taking a preparation that contains an analgesic and decongestant combined. Use care if you suffer from hypertension, as decongestants may raise blood pressure.

Not all analgesics are made to be taken internally. Analgesic gels are often used for toothache pain. If aspirin or other oral medications upset your stomach, try a topical gel for toothache relief. The gel is applied to the affected teeth and surrounding gums to numb the area and relieve pain. A pain-relieving gel is meant to provide temporary relief until a dentist can be consulted.

If you have muscle aches or strains, or suffer from arthritis pain, consider using a topical pain-relieving cream or lotion. If you're concerned about the odor of a cream, odorless varieties are available. Some topical preparations contain capsaicin, which may irritate sensitive skin or cause a burning sensation. If you experience any unusual reaction to this medication, discontinue use and consult your physician.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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