This Is When You Should Choose Ibuprofen Over Acetaminophen

When it comes to over-the-counter pain medications, ibuprofen and acetaminophen are two of the most popular ones we reach for when we need to treat minor aches and fevers. While the two seem interchangeable, they are not. In fact, there are times when you should choose ibuprofen over acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen, better known as Tylenol, is an analgesic, which means it works by reducing the amount of pain signals that travel within the nervous system to the brain. It is a good choice for treating arthritis, sore throats, toothaches, minor aches, and headaches. The drug is included in many types of over-the-counter medications ranging from sleep aids to formulas for colds and allergies.

Ibuprofen, or Advil, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It works by combatting inflammation, and many of the symptoms that go along with it, including swelling and redness.

Another major difference between the pain relievers is how the body breaks down each drug. The liver breaks down acetaminophen, while ibuprofen is processed by the kidneys.

Take Ibuprofen For Inflammation Or If You Have Liver Issues

If your pain is related to swelling, ibuprofen helps to relieve both symptoms. The drug is ideal for treating sore or strained muscles, back pain, earaches, menstrual cramps, and sinus infections (via Cleveland Clinic).

Because ibuprofen is processed through the kidneys, it is also a better choice if you have issues with your liver. Liver damage is tricky because symptoms can take years to appear, or it can also occur after a single, large dose of acetaminophen. Either way, if liver damage or failure is a concern, it is best to avoid acetaminophen because overuse of the drug is the most common cause of liver failure in the United States (via Mayo Clinic). 

As with any medication, do not exceed the recommended dosage. If you are unsure about taking either drug, check with your doctor or pharmacist to see which one might work better for you.