The right pain reliever for your pain - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

The right pain reliever for your pain

Whether you have a tension headache or a migraine, look for a pain reliever that combines acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. © iStockphoto.com/Shaun Lowe Whether you have a tension headache or a migraine, look for a pain reliever that combines acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. © iStockphoto.com/Shaun Lowe

By Stacey Colino

 

You may be a pro multitasker, but few can juggle work, family and other responsibilities when in physical pain. And with so many people relying on you, you don't have time to get sidelined by a headache or other aches and pains. You just need relief. 

The trouble is, with all the over-the-counter pain relievers available, deciding which is best can be, well, a major pain. But it doesn't have to be. Find your ailment below, then the treatment that experts say is most effective so you can get a grip on pain and get on with your life. (If you have health problems or a medical condition, however, consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter drugs.)

1. Headache

Whether you have a tension headache or a migraine, look for a pain reliever that combines acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. "The meds block pain at different levels, so the combination tends to be more effective than any one alone," says Dr. ­Vincent Martin, an internist and headache expert who teaches at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

How they work: When you have a headache, blood vessels in the brain dilate. Caffeine constricts those vessels, easing pain, explains Martin. Meanwhile, aspirin helps block pain-provoking chemicals in the brain called prostaglandins and improves the pain-relieving effects of acetaminophen.

See a doctor if:
You have frequent headaches. Also, consult a medical doctor if you have liver problems, because you may not be able to take acetaminophen.

2. Heartburn

For occasional heartburn, any chewable or liquid antacid will quickly neutralize stomach acid to provide relief, says Dr. Charlene Prather, a gastroenterologist with a master's in public health, and an associate professor at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

If you're prone to diarrhea, choose an antacid with aluminum hydroxide or calcium rather than magnesium. Vice versa if you tend to get constipated.

For persistent heartburn, take a tablet that combines both an antacid and an acid blocker (such as famotidine or ranitidine) instead. "You'll get immediate relief from the antacid, then more sustained relief from the acid-blocking drug," says Prather. Acid-blocking drugs can last up to 12 hours.

See a doctor if: You get heartburn more than a few times a week or your symptoms worsen.

3. Back pain or strained muscles


Ibuprofen and naproxen (aka non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs) are stronger and will last longer than other pain relievers, says Dr. Dana S. Simpler, an attending physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. They block the production of pain-causing prostaglandins and reduce inflammation in the strained muscles.

If you have high blood pressure or stomach or kidney problems, however, NSAIDs may not be an option. Acetaminophen is the next best thing. It targets the part of the brain that receives and processes pain messages from the injured area.  

Whichever pill you take, you can also rub on a topical pain-relieving gel containing menthol or salicylate, says Simpler. The anti-inflammatory agents "are absorbed through the skin, so the majority of the medicine goes directly into the muscles," she explains.

See a doctor if:
Your back pain or muscle strain persists or worsens after a few days.

4. Flu aches and fever

Reach for either an NSAID (ibuprofen or naproxen) or acetaminophen, says Simpler. Both reduce your fever and alleviate achiness by affecting the brain's ability to receive pain messages. NSAIDs also calm inflammation.

NSAIDs are stronger and work longer, but they can upset your stomach. So if you are nauseated or susceptible to stomach problems, you may be better off with acetaminophen.

Either way, avoid aspirin or medications containing aspirin. Ingesting it when you have the flu can trigger a rare but dangerous condition called Reye's Syndrome.

See a doctor if:
You get chest pain, shortness of breath, a seriously phlegm-y cough or fever that lasts longer than a week.  

5. Menstrual cramps

Surveys suggest the majority of women experience some degree of menstrual pain. In this case, NSAIDs are usually your best bet. They block the production of prostaglandins that cause muscle cramps and spasms in the uterus.

Take ibuprofen or naproxen around the time you expect your period to start or at the first twinge of pain. Doing so will keep you ahead of the hurt, says Dr. Jill Maura Rabin, head of urogynecology at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

See a doctor if: NSAIDs don't offer sufficient relief and you can't function or if your cramps are accompanied by unusually heavy bleeding.

Copyright (c) 2010 Studio One Networks. All rights reserved.

Stacey Colino is a writer in Chevy Chase, MD. She has written for many national magazines, including Newsweek, Real Simple, Self, Woman's Day, Parents, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour.

  • Medical News HeadlinesMedical News HeadlinesMore>>

  • Washing Lungs & Breathing Better

    Washing Lungs & Breathing Better

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-16 21:15:09 GMT
    Imagine not being able to breathe without struggling: every breath you take is work; every breath you take could be your last. That was the case for one man who became dependent on an oxygen tank to stay alive.more>>
    Imagine not being able to breathe without struggling: every breath you take is work; every breath you take could be your last. That was the case for one man who became dependent on an oxygen tank to stay alive.more>>
  • Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Friday, April 11 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-11 21:15:07 GMT
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a rare type of melanoma that targets the eye. It can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a type of melanoma that targets the eye. It affects about 2,000 people a year in the United States. Although rare – it can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
  • Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Thursday, April 10 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-10 21:15:09 GMT
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
  • Pedaling For A Cure

    Pedaling For A Cure

    Wednesday, April 9 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-09 21:15:09 GMT
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
  • Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Tuesday, April 8 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-08 21:15:13 GMT
    CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Eric Robinson alive after he went into cardiac arrest. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
    A year ago, while jamming with his son's band, Eric Robinson went into cardiac arrest. CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Robinson alive. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
  • Helping High Risk Hearts

    Helping High Risk Hearts

    Monday, April 7 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-07 21:15:09 GMT
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
  • Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Friday, April 4 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-04 21:15:07 GMT
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
  • Predicting Bad Hearts

    Predicting Bad Hearts

    Thursday, April 3 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-03 21:15:09 GMT
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner.more>>
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. And 600,000 die of heart disease. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner; and they did it by pure accident.more>>
  • Giving Shannon A Voice Of Her Own

    Giving Shannon A Voice Of Her Own

    Wednesday, April 2 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-02 21:15:05 GMT
    More than half a million children under age 15 has a severe communication disorder impairing their ability to speak or communicate with others. Now, advances in technology are giving them a voice—some for the first time.more>>
    More than half a million children under age 15 has a severe communication disorder impairing their ability to speak or communicate with others. Now, advances in technology are giving them a voice—some for the first time.more>>
  • Getting On Your Nerves To Save Your Heart

    Getting On Your Nerves To Save Your Heart

    Tuesday, April 1 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-01 21:15:06 GMT
    Heart failure is the fastest growing cardiovascular disorder in the U.S., affecting more than 6 million people. However, now a new device that gets on your nerves could help save those with heart failure.more>>
    Heart failure is the fastest growing cardiovascular disorder in the U.S., affecting more than 6 million people. It occurs when a person's heart is too weak to pump and circulate blood in the body. However, now a new device that gets on your nerves could help save those with heart failure.more>>
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by WorldNow
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 NewsChannel 5 (WTVF-TV) and WorldNow. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.