Product Reviews

Thanks Jennifer. We are looking forward to working with you. We will be in touch

Your account has been created

Which is better for a headache: Acetaminophen or ibuprofen?

Each of the drugs has its drawbacks

Published: June 26, 2014 11:15 AM

For most run-of-the-mill headaches, it’s usually best to try acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic) first. It doesn’t pose the risk of stomach bleeding and heart attack associated with the regular use of most nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), a class of painkillers that includes ibuprofen (Advil and generic).

But acetaminophen comes with its own caveats. It’s not as effective at relieving pain as NSAIDs, and high doses can damage the liver. People who are heavy drinkers or have cirrhosis of the liver or hepatitis should use acetaminophen with caution. Do not take more than the maximum daily amount of 4,000 mg per day—the equivalent of eight extra-strength 500 mg capsules daily, and be sure to follow the product label instructions carefully.

If acetaminophen doesn’t relieve your pain, consider ibuprofen or naproxen (Aleve and generic). Both are Consumer Reports Best Buys. Naproxen may be a better choice if you have higher risk of heart attacks or strokes, since studies suggest it does not increase the risk of these conditions.

If you are at increased risk of bleeding due to older age, because you take aspirin or other blood thinners, or have a history of prior bleeding or ulcers, talk to your doctor before taking any of these painkillers.

Finally, strange as it may sound, overuse of these medications can actually cause headaches. That problem is known as "rebound headaches." So use these treatments only when needed, and see your doctor if you experience daily or almost daily headaches.

For more details on these and other pain medications, check out our free Best Buy Drugs report on NSAIDs

Editor's Note:

These materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multi-state settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).



E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Health News

Cars

Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings

Mobile

Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more