Advil vs. Tylenol: What’s Best for Arthritis?
Be in the Know About Pain Relievers
A major symptom of arthritis is joint pain. Sometimes it’s mild; sometimes it’s intense. Arthritis pain can even be disabling. Fortunately, there are different drugs to relieve different levels of pain.
You can purchase two over-the-counter (OTC) pain-relieving drugs at any drugstore: Advil and Tylenol. Both can temporarily relieve mild to moderate arthritis pain.
What’s in these drugs? Are they safe? Is one better at relieving arthritis pain than the other? Click through this slideshow for the answers.
What Is Advil?
Advil is the brand name for the generic, non-narcotic, pain-relieving drug ibuprofen. Other over-the-counter brands names for ibuprofen include Midol, Motrin, and Nuprin.
Ibuprofen may relieve mild to moderate pain from osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), ankylosing spondylitis, and gouty arthritis. Adults and children over 12 years old can take ibuprofen every six to eight hours as needed to relieve pain.
Don’t take more than four doses in 24 hours, and be sure to follow the directions on the package.
How Does Advil (Ibuprofen) Work?
Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It temporarily helps relieve pain by reducing tissue inflammation.
In arthritis, soft tissues surrounding the joints become inflamed, causing pain. RA, an autoimmune disease, causes inflammation when the body’s immune system attacks the soft tissues that surround the joints.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, ibuprofen blocks the production of certain chemicals in the body by preventing their combination. This reduces inflammation and pain. It also accounts for ibuprofen’s anti-fever and blood-thinning actions.
What Are Advil’s (Ibuprofen’s) Side Effects?
Possible side effects of ibuprofen include:
- constipation or diarrhea
- gas or bloating
- adverse skin reactions
- ringing in the ears
Serious side effects include a higher risk of heart attack or stroke. Talk to your doctor if you experience any side effects. Don’t take ibuprofen if you take blood thinners or steroids.
Ibuprofen may also cause sores, bleeding, or holes in the stomach or intestines. The risk is higher for:
- older people
- those who take NSAIDs for a long time
- those who are in poor health
- those who drink three or more alcoholic drinks a day
What Is Tylenol?
Tylenol is a brand of the generic, non-narcotic, pain-reliever acetaminophen. Other brands of acetaminophen include Anacin Aspirin Free and Daytril.
Acetaminophen may relieve minor aches and pains and also can reduce fever. It has little anti-inflammatory effect, though, which means it won’t do much for pain from inflammatory arthritis.
Acetaminophen comes in many forms. The dose depends on several factors including the medication’s form and amount of drug per dose.
How Does Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Work?
Acetaminophen is one of the most widely used pain relievers in the world. But scientists don't know exactly how it works to relieve pain. It might lower the brain's pain threshold so that less pain is felt. More studies are needed.
What Are Tylenol’s (Acetaminophen’s) Side Effects?
Acetaminophen is sold by itself or mixed with other drugs in many OTC cough-and-cold remedies. It’s also mixed with opiates in some narcotic pain drugs, which can be dangerous if taken incorrectly and lead to accidental overdose.
Acetaminophen may cause serious liver damage—even death—if more is taken than recommended. Always follow package directions with care. Note the milligrams per dose. Never take more than 4,000 mgs a day.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently came out with a new warning about acetaminophen. It has been associated with a risk of rare but serious skin reactions. If you have a skin reaction when you take it, stop and consult your doctor immediately.
What’s Best for Arthritis: Advil or Tylenol?
It’s a draw. There are more than 100 types of arthritis. Some are the result of “wear and tear” on the joints, like OA. Others are autoimmune diseases, like RA.
Advil is a NSAID. It works best on autoimmune inflammatory arthritis. It reduces inflammation, which reduces pain.
Tylenol works in the brain to lower pain thresholds. It works best for OA pain.
Overall, both OTC drugs are safe and effective, and they do a good job in relieving pain. But take them with care, as they can cause dangerous side effects if taken incorrectly.
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