Bottle of generic Ibuprofen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It used to be that all you had to do was take an aspirin with water every morning when you woke up. Nowadays however, there’s no shortage of pain relievers available over the counter at your pharmacy. With so many different choices and many side effects unknown, it’s a real headache (no pun intended) to discover which pain medication is right for you.

Over the counter pain medication usually falls under the class of medications known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), in laymen’s terms, these are medications that target areas in your body that you feel pain due to tissue inflammation.

Two of the most common over the counter NSAIDs are Ibuprofen (Advil, Brufen, or Motrin) and Naproxen (Aleve). Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the two:

Ibuprofen vs. Naproxen

To begin, both ibuprofen and naproxen are NSAIDs, and they will both offer some relief to whatever is causing you pain. One difference is mainly within the speed in which they act. Ibuprofen is a fast acting drug, and will bring you relief much quicker than naproxen will. Ibuprofen also works much better at relieving fevers, headaches and migraines than naproxen.

Generally, ibuprofen is something you would take to deal with a headache at work, before going out, or something for quick pain relief. However studies have shown ibuprofen can have adverse effects for people who have a history of heart and liver disease.

Naproxen is a drug that works slower than ibuprofen, but in the end will offer longer-term relief compared to the short-term benefit of ibuprofen. Furthermore, it’s much better at targeting muscle tissue inflammations, pain that could be caused by a sprain, arthritis, or strained muscles. Naproxen is therefore best used after a long workout at the gym, a hike, or for sore muscles before bed for best effect. Naproxen goes easiest on your heart, so if you have a history of heart attacks it is better to use than ibuprofen.

Side Effects and Issues with NSAIDs

NSAID label

NSAID classification on label (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, no medication is a miracle cure all. While ibuprofen and naproxen are two of the most commonly available NSAIDs available and hold a low rate of direct causes of death and hospitalization, there are still risks and issues with using them. Studies show that all NSAID’s however (even naproxen) carry some risk of increasing risk of heart attacks. NSAID’s have been documented in causing internal intestinal bleeding in some people.

Both ibuprofen and naproxen can cause nausea, heartburn and (ironically) headaches. For people who must be careful with their blood pressure, NSAID’s can cause increases in blood pressure, especially if you are taking medication to deal with it. Of course, you should never take ibuprofen or naproxen while under the influence of alcohol.

Note: _The information above is NOT medical advice and should not be relied upon to make medical decisions. Contact your doctor or pharmacist before making any medical decisions.