Which OTC pain medication is best to consume in 2021

Over the counter medication

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Over-the-counter medications are usually non-prescribed, but they are legally allowed to sell at pharmacies. Every drug is considered to be OTC medication until they are stated explicitly as a prescription-only drug.


Many prescribed pain medications are available, but most people prefer over-the-counter medications as they are easily accessible and can be taken without any doctor consult or spending any extra amount. 


While suffering from pain, it is natural to look for immediate relief. There are dozens of over-the-counter pain relief products available in pharmaceutical stores, but choosing one could be a hectic task.


As we know, various drugs can treat similar symptoms, but each one of them works differently in your body depending upon the ingredients used in them. 

To choose the right and effective drug, always consider comparing these pain relievers uses, warnings, directions, and active ingredients, which can be a helpful way to understand the differences.


In addition, before reaching any pharmaceutical store for a drug, it is essential to learn about the different types of painkillers that are available OTC and their benefits and risks. This article will further help to know about the best OTC pain medications and how they differ from each other with their warnings and uses. 

What are the forms of pain medications, and how do they differ?

Pain is the normal problem through which many individuals suffer in their day-to-day life. For example, while working out in the gym, muscle pain could occur; also sitting on the desk for 8 hours could lead to back or neck pain.


Many OTC medications are available to get relief from these aches, but it is essential to know the difference to choose the right medication for your condition. We have shown two forms of OTC pain reliever options: acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen.


These painkillers can help treat stiffness, earaches, postoperative pain, muscle aches, headaches, back pain, and pain caused by flu or cold. Still, in some cases, one type of pain reliever can work better for specific aches.


To reduce fever, NSAIDs and acetaminophen are used, although only NSAIDs can alleviate inflammation caused by irritation and swelling. The effect and work of both these pain relievers are different as NSAIDs ease pain by declining prostaglandins production, which is the hormone-like structure that causes pain in the body.


While acetaminophen works directly on the central nervous system used to receive the “pain messages.” However, these medicines are available OTC but still consult your family doctor to avoid any risk.

Can I drink wine if I’ve been using over-the-counter pain relievers?

First of all, it is known that wine contains an average 11% of alcohol that is enough to harm your health and metabolism. Therefore, we suggest you not consume any alcoholic drinks while you were on any medications.

The combination of wine and over-the-counter pain relievers can be dangerous and is usually not recommended. But practically, it is concluded that one of the most common causes of severe damage in the liver is done by the chronic combination of alcohol and acetaminophen. 

The experiences taken by many people are worse; in many cases, if NSAIDs have taken regularly and drink more than an average amount of alcohol, then mild to serious side effects like heartburn, stomach upset, and severe bleeding are seen.

Although men can take two drinks, whereas women can take one drink moderately for each day. The long-term side effects can be experienced when excess alcohol consumption and constant use of acetaminophen and NSAIDs are done. 


Pain like a muscle pull while running, menstrual cramp or a severe headache can be treated by ibuprofen pills that include Advil, Motrin. 

Side effects like mild indigestion to severe nausea, upset stomach, and it can cause severe gastrointestinal bleeding.


If you are having an impaired kidney function or a kidney disease, avoid taking ibuprofen pills. 


Another name for aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid, a medication used to alleviate pain, inflammation, or fever. It is used to treat specific inflammatory conditions like pericarditis, rheumatic fever, and Kawasaki disease. 

Practically it is seen that if aspirin is given shortly after a heart attack, then it decreases the risk of death.


If you’re having any gastrointestinal trouble, then avoid aspirin as a first-choice pain killer.


Naproxen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug sold under the brand name Aleve in the market, which is used to treat pain like menstrual cramps and inflammatory diseases like gout, fever, and rheumatoid arthritis. The side effects and warnings are similar to ibuprofen.


Acetaminophen comes under the class of medications called antipyretics that reduces fever and analgesics that relieves pain. It completely works by changing the way your body senses pain and by cooling it.

It is suitable for general aches, headaches, and fever; they are not associated with swelling as acetaminophen has no anti-inflammatory effect.


Avoid using acetaminophen if you have liver disease.


Paracetamol reduces the intensity of pain signals to the central nervous system. In addition, the release of substances called prostaglandins is prevented by Paracetamol which increases pain in the body.

It is a very common OTC pain reliever. 


This brand is also known as acetaminophen/codeine, a compound analgesic consisting of a combination of Paracetamol and codeine phosphate. It comes under opioid medication, which is used to treat mild to moderate-severe pain. 

How should I store over-the-counter pain relievers?

Any drug that you buy must be kept in a cool and dry place not to lose its capacity of effectiveness. If taken by young children, any high-power medicine can harm them badly, so it will be our primary job to keep it away from kids. Keeping it in places where humidity is more like a bathroom will reduce its power.

Before taking any medicine always read the direction of use, side effects, and warnings. Take some time to read those directions where you can see how much to take; even if you are in a lot of pain, it is not safe to consume more pills than the label says. 

Most people think that taking a high amount of medicine will work faster, but it is wrong; you will do nothing but harm yourself. For your knowledge, we have provided the amount of the drug that is safe for you like.

  • Naproxen 600mg per day
  • Ibuprofen 1200mg per day
  • Acetaminophen 3000mg per day

Every drug acts differently for everyone, so keep track or maintain a list of your medications with you, including which OTC medicines you are using and when you are taking them. Always consult a doctor or health care professional if you are having trouble with your medications. 


Painkillers are the most sold medicines globally that can be taken as prescription-only drugs or over-the-counter. We have provided the list of the top 6 OTC painkillers that will help you relieve pain, out of which acetaminophen is the drug more effective with fewer side effects. 

Though it has no anti-inflammatory effect, it is still used for all general pains. We have covered up almost every topic about OTC pain medications, which you might find helpful, and forward this relevant information to others.


Barker, S. (2015). Pain: Always already a translation (Ph.D. thesis). University of Sydney. http://www.academia.edu/14971933/Pain_Always_Already_a_Translation. Accessed on 19/06/2021
Emery R. Eaves, “Just Advil”: Harm reduction and identity construction in the consumption of over-the-counter medication for chronic pain, Social Science & Medicine, Volume 146, 2015, Pages 147-154, ISSN 0277-9536, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.10.033.