You Probably Use Ibuprofen for These 5 Causes of Pain; Here Are the Best Alternatives (2023)

For 50 million Americans, the picture of life is tarnished by chronic pain. Chronic pain restricts what we aspire to accomplish, whether it’s a migraine, knee pain, or backaches.

Grandparents can attest to this. Middle-aged professionals realize it. Stay-at-home moms know this all too well. High school athletes are faced with it, too.

Due to pain’s effect on our quality of life, millions of Americans rely on nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain. This group of pain blockers includes ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin.

What often goes untold, however, are the side effects that can come from relying on NSAIDs to manage pain. Extensive research shows that NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal ulcers, serious cardiovascular events, hypertension, acute renal failure, and exacerbate preexisting heart failure.

A Major Drawback of NSAIDs: They Inhibit Proper Healing

It’s important to know what causes pain to understand what inhibits it. Of course, causes vary, but we mainly experience pain while the body works to heal from an injury or sickness via signaling an inflammatory response.

“In most cases, the inflammation is the healing. It’s our body’s way of clearing out dead cells in the area and preventing infection,” Dr. Courtney Kahla, a chiropractic doctor, said in an email to The Epoch Times.

Ideally, the inflammatory response isn’t lengthy. But in many circumstances, the response is prolonged, thus stalling the healing process from effectuating. When inflammation is chronic, pain is chronic. This, in turn, leads individuals to use NSAIDs to block inflammation directly.

While the drugs provide immediate pain relief, “There’s actually a lot of evidence that shows blocking inflammation can make our pain last longer,” Kahla said.

(Video) Ibuprofen Alternative - How To Relieve Pain Naturally

One studyfound that NSAIDs inhibited proper bone and wound healing. Another study showed that people who used NSAIDs to treat lower back pain were likelier to end up with chronic pain.

However, there is good news: Nature has provided us with pain relievers that sometimes work as well or better than pharmaceuticals while also promoting healing. Depending on the chronic pain you or a loved one is experiencing, the list below aims to inform individuals how to manage pain without worrying about the potential side effects accompanying NSAIDs.

Natural Alternatives

Back/Neck Pain

Specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs):SPMs are a class of molecules that the body naturally generates.They are also made into supplement forms.

Specifically, the naturally occurring SPMs are lipid mediators converted from the essential fatty acids in our diet. When inflammation emerges due to injury or sickness, SPMs are signaled to the inflamed area and work to facilitate healing.

Unlike how NSAIDs block inflammation, SPMs resolve inflammation by removing dead cells and other debris, thereby enabling the inflamed site to return to homeostasis.

“The beauty of using SPMs is you don’t shut down the natural inflammatory process that leads to healing and regeneration of tissue as you do with NSAIDs,” Dr. Matt Angove, a functional health care provider, told The Epoch Times in an email.

In a study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine, SPM supplementation decreased pain and increased the quality of life of patients dealing with chronic pain. Another study (pdf) found similar results.

Some doctors are witnessing the positive effects of SPM supplementation in their clinical practices.

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In one case, Angove had a 76-year-old female with multiple broken ribs and fractured thoracic vertebrae. This patient also experienced bad reactions from standard pain medications and NSAIDs.

“Unfortunately, rib fractures hurt with every breath, so we put her on 6 grams of SPMs a day, and she was able to sleep and heal fantastically without excruciating pain,” explained Angove.

Migraines and Headaches

Magnesium:According to a significant body of scientific literature, migraines and headaches are often caused by a lack of magnesium.

Therefore, when individuals with chronic migraines supplement with magnesium, they often experience a total reprieve from pain, given that the root issue—nutrient deficiency—is being addressed.

Multiple double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have shown that magnesium supplementation can efficiently mitigate pain caused by migraines.

“I’ve had multiple patients with migraines that were driven by magnesium deficiency,” Dr. Joel Noland, an Idaho-based naturopathic physician, wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.

Noland’s clinical observations have shown that magnesium supplementation significantly reduces and prevents migraines for his patients.

Menstrual Pain

Ginger and magnesium:In a double-blind study comparing the efficacy of ibuprofen versus ginger, researchers discovered that ginger was as effective as ibuprofen in managing menstruation pain.

(Video) Ibuprofen vs. Aleve vs. Turmeric vs. Tylenol (Updated with Aspirin) Pharmacist Chris Explains

Another systematic review found similar results, noting that the review “verified the possibility of ginger efficacy in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea (menstruation pain)” and that the use of ginger was “very useful and effective as NSAIDs.”

A robust body of research supports magnesium’s role in alleviating menstrual pain.

Dr. Amadea Angove, a functional doctor and acupuncturist, reports these studies’ findings in her practice. “While the cause of severe pain from menstrual cramps should be investigated, magnesium can alleviate pain quickly and effectively,” she told The Epoch Times in an email.

Knee Pain

Curcumin:Curcumin, the active anti-inflammatory agent of turmeric, has been used as a pain reducer for thousands of years. Moreover, curcumin has been demonstrated to be helpful to those who deal with chronic knee pain.

In a meta-analysis examining curcumin’s efficacy in treating pain caused by knee osteoarthritis, researchers found that curcumin is more effective than NSAIDs.

Because turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects are well known, many individuals take turmeric supplements, hoping it will alleviate their pain.

But as expressed by Matt Angove, many individuals do not experience symptom remission because turmeric supplements often do not contain significant amounts of curcumin, the active agent that reduces inflammation.

Therefore, he advises finding high-quality curcumin—not turmeric—supplements to ensure patients find pain relief.

(Video) Ibuprofen - Ibuprofen Side Effects, Drug Interactions, And Natural Anti Inflammatory Alternatives

Sports-Related Injuries

Topical capsaicin cream and grounding:Capsaicin is a chemical derived from chili peppers, and depending on the athlete’s type of injury, it can be an effective way to reduce pain.

This molecule reduces inflammation by blocking a neurotransmitter that ignites pain. It’s most commonly used in high concentrations as a topical solution for individuals battling pain from tendinitis, muscle pain, or arthritis.

Some studies indicate capsaicin can accelerate tendon repair and mitigate muscular injuries.

Another therapy that’s been shown to help athletes recover from injuries is the practice of grounding or earthing.

Grounding has been shown to reduce painful inflammation in multiple studies, including one published in the Journal of Inflammation Research. It haseven been used as an effective healing therapy for professional bikers in the Tour de France.

“It’s basically connecting the surface of your skin to the surface of the Earth, like your hands or feet to grass, dirt, or trees,” said Kahla.“The earth is like a huge battery that contains a subtle electrical charge. And to put it simply, our body runs off this electricity,” she explained.

Researchers in the Journal of Inflammation Research study wrotethat grounding “enables free electrons from the Earth’s surface to spread over and into the body, where they can have antioxidant effects.”

Getting to the Root of Inflammation

Addressing the cause of pain is foundational if you wish to live pain-free. “Instead of saying, ‘I am in pain. I need a pill to feel better,’ we should ask ourselves, ‘What is my body trying to tell me?’” advised Kahla.

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“If you have menstrual cramps, that could be your body’s way of saying your hormones aren’t balanced. If you have muscle pain, that’s your body’s way of saying, hey, don’t use this area of your body for a while.

“Our body is so good at telling us what it needs and sending messages to us. We just have to listen to it,” she added.


What are good alternatives for ibuprofen? ›

Acetaminophen is a safe alternative to NSAIDs for people who are allergic or hypersensitive to ibuprofen or other NSAIDs. In addition, certain supplements can help provide relief from inflammation and pain. Common alternatives to NSAIDs include arnica, curcumin, and bromelain.

Why alternate Tylenol and ibuprofen for pain? ›

This means they can be taken at the same time. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen also potentiate each other. This means acetaminophen helps ibuprofen work better and ibuprofen helps acetaminophen work better. Dosing the two together can relieve more severe and persistent pain, such as pain with broken bones and tooth decay.

What is the best pain reliever without ibuprofen? ›

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a non-aspirin pain reliever. It is NOT an NSAID, which is described below. Acetaminophen relieves fever and headaches, and other common aches and pains.

What can I take instead of ibuprofen for back pain? ›

Best for all day/night back pain relief: Naproxen (Aleve)

Naproxen (Aleve) is another NSAID. It works by decreasing inflammation, similar to ibuprofen. But it lasts longer than ibuprofen.

Can I substitute Tylenol or ibuprofen? ›

Ibuprofen vs Acetaminophen: Which to Use? You should use acetaminophen for pain, but if you also have inflammation, consider taking ibuprofen instead. You can also take both of them together if you have pain and inflammation.

Can Tylenol be used instead of ibuprofen? ›

For problems that might not be related to inflammation (fevers, headaches, etc.), always try acetaminophen first. It can work just as well as, if not better than, ibuprofen. If you're experiencing pain, fever or injury, talk to your doctor about the best pain management options for you.

Is aspirin or ibuprofen better for inflammation? ›

ibuprofen for general pain. Generally, it's a matter of preference which one you choose for general pain and inflammation. Both can treat these problems.

Do aspirin and ibuprofen do the same thing? ›

No, ibuprofen is not aspirin. Ibuprofen and aspirin are both effective for pain, fever and inflammation. However, they are different medications.

How do you alternate Tylenol and ibuprofen chart? ›

In these situations, you can alternate the medications using each type every 6 hours, but alternating every 3 hours. For example, Acetaminophen at 12 noon, Ibuprofen at 3 pm, Acetaminophen at 6 pm, Ibuprofen at 9 pm. This helps avoid spikes in the child's fever as the medication wears off.

What is the most harmless painkiller? ›

Acetaminophen is generally considered safer than other pain relievers. It doesn't cause side effects such as stomach pain and bleeding.

What is the strongest pain killer? ›

The most powerful pain relievers are opioids. They are very effective, but they can sometimes have serious side effects. There is also a risk of addiction. Because of the risks, you must use them only under a doctor's supervision.

What is an alternative to Tylenol for pain? ›

At the drugstore, the most common alternatives to acetaminophen are painkiller tablets such as ibuprofen (brand names Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (brand names Aleve, Naprosyn, and Anaprox). Both of these are part of a class of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Is it better to take Tylenol or ibuprofen for back pain? ›

Doctors often suggest you first try acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) because it is gentler on the stomach, even though NSAIDs tend to work better for back pain. There's good evidence that acetaminophen relieves headaches, dental pain, and pain after surgery, but its effectiveness for back pain is less well supported.

How can I relieve back pain without pills? ›

Acupuncture, massage, biofeedback therapy, laser therapy, electrical nerve stimulation and other nonsurgical spine treatments can also make a difference for chronic back pain. Talk to your spine specialist about alternative treatments that could benefit you.

Is there an anti-inflammatory other than ibuprofen? ›

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are among the most widely used pain relievers. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) and prescription-only NSAIDs.

Why is Aleve better than ibuprofen? ›

Aleve is Long Acting and ibuprofen is Short Acting

Ibuprofen tablets/capsules need to be given every four to six hours. Aleve is considered long-acting, and can be given twice daily. It has a slower onset of effect and is better suited for the treatment of chronic conditions.

What is the best pain reliever for body aches? ›

Ibuprofen (trade names are Advil, Motrin, Midol) "targets inflammation, so it is particularly helpful for muscle pain, joint pain and sports injuries.

Is aspirin safer than ibuprofen? ›

Aspirin may be used on an occasional basis to treat headaches, minor body aches, and tooth pain. Aspirin use does not appear to be associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular events, nor does low-dose ibuprofen (up to 1200mg/day). However, high-dose ibuprofen (1200mg to 2400mg/day) is associated with a higher risk.

What is the safest drug for inflammation? ›

Your doctor may recommend low-dose aspirin to reduce your risk of a heart attack. In the lower dose, aspirin doesn't pose the same health risk as full-strength NSAIDs. These medicines are effective at dulling pain, reducing inflammation, and reducing fevers. When used moderately, they are generally considered safe.

Which pain reliever is least harmful to the liver? ›

Acetaminophen (paracetamol), when taken in reduced doses (maximum 2–3 grams per day), is generally considered to be the safest pain relief option for your liver.

Which anti-inflammatory is best? ›

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and Naproxen (Aleve).

“In general, pain that is associated with inflammation, like swelling or acute injury, is better treated with ibuprofen or naproxen,” says Matthew Sutton, MD, a Family Medicine physician at The Iowa Clinic's West Des Moines campus.

What are the bad side effects of ibuprofen? ›

Side effects of ibuprofen
  • Headaches. Make sure you rest and drink plenty of fluids. ...
  • Feeling dizzy. If ibuprofen makes you feel dizzy, stop what you're doing and sit or lie down until you feel better. ...
  • Feeling sick (nausea) Stick to simple meals. ...
  • Being sick (vomiting) ...
  • Wind. ...
  • Indigestion.

Does ibuprofen thin your blood? ›

NSAIDs like ibuprofen aren't technically blood thinners. But they can increase your risk of bleeding, especially if they're taken with prescription blood thinners.

When can't you take ibuprofen? ›

You shouldn't take ibuprofen if you: have a history of a strong, unpleasant reaction (hypersensitivity) to aspirin or other NSAIDs. have a current or recent stomach ulcer, or you have had one in the past. have severe heart failure.

Can ibuprofen cause blood clots? ›

Side effects of NSAID drugs

A series of studies have shown that NSAID drugs increase the risk of blood clots. In 2011, a large Danish study showed that using NSAID drugs even over a short period increases the risk of developing thrombosis.

Does aspirin raise blood pressure? ›

Aspirin isn't commonly known to affect blood pressure. But it does come with a higher risk of bleeding. There are a few groups of people who may benefit from taking low-dose aspirin (81 mg per day). This includes people who've previously had a heart attack or stroke.

Which is better aspirin or Tylenol? ›

Aspirin is safer than acetaminophen, he said, though to be used as a pain reliever it requires much higher doses — which can have side effects like stomach upset. Aspirin also interferes with blood coagulation for days after taking it.

How many times a day can you alternate Tylenol and ibuprofen? ›

The recommended dosing intervals are every 6 and every 8 hours for acetaminophen and ibuprofen respectively10; thus, theoretically they might be alternated every 3 hours. However, many children are undertreated,16,17 with more than 50% of parents shown to give an incorrect dose of these analgesics.

How do you alternate Tylenol and ibuprofen for fever in adults? ›

You can use both ibuprofen and Tylenol (acetaminophen) for fever control. You can alternate them, so that you can take one or the other every 2-3 hours if your fever is still up. For instance, if you take 2 Tylenol at 10am and still have a fever at noon, you can take Ibuprofen.

How do I alternate Tylenol 3 and ibuprofen? ›

You may take acetaminophen as well as ibuprofen, either alternating medications at three-hour intervals OR both together every six hours.

Which is the fastest painkiller? ›

Similar to ibuprofen, naproxen starts working in as little as 30 minutes. And the side effects are similar as well. But if you have kidney problems, you should avoid using it. The maximum daily dose of naproxen is 1,500 mg per day.

Is there a pain pill that is not addictive? ›

There are many non-opioid pain medications that are available over the counter or by prescription, such as ibuprofen (Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin (Bayer), and steroids, and some patients find that these are all they need.

Is there a pill not to feel pain? ›

Acetaminophen: This drug (Tylenol®) dulls pain receptors in the brain. As a result, you feel less pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs lower the production of prostaglandins. These hormone-like chemicals irritate nerve endings, causing inflammation and pain.

What do hospitals give for extreme pain? ›

Morphine and similar painkillers

They are used for more severe forms of pain. They can be delivered either intravenously via a drip, orally or via an injection.

Is Percocet the same as oxycodone? ›

What's the difference between Percocet and oxycodone-CR products? Both Percocet and oxycodone-CR products relieve pain, but while Percocet gives relief for about five hours, the effects of oxycodone-CR last for about 12 hours, when taken as prescribed.

Why is gabapentin bad? ›

Gabapentin is known to cause respiratory depression, particularly when combined with other central nervous system depressants. Long-term use can cause physiologic dependence and withdrawal syndrome on cessation, characterized by diaphoresis, anxiety, confusion and, rarely, seizures.

Is hydrocodone available over-the-counter? ›

Hydrocodone is an oral opioid medication used to treat pain. It's available by prescription only, like all opioids.

Is heat or ice better for back pain? ›

Generally speaking, ice is better than heat for back pain that may be caused by an acute injury. The Cleveland Clinic says that, in the battle of back pain, “Ice wins to shut down swelling, inflammation and pain early on where heat may actually make an injury worse.”

What is the best pill for lower back pain? ›

Which Medicines Help With Low Back Pain?
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • NSAIDs (Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Motrin)
  • Muscle Relaxants.
  • Antidepressants.
  • Opioids.
Mar 18, 2021

Can you get a muscle relaxers over-the-counter? ›

Are there over-the-counter muscle relaxers? There are no over-the-counter (OTC) muscle relaxants in the United States. But some OTC medications can help muscle issues (like soreness), such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and acetaminophen.

What drinks help back pain? ›

Also, drink healthy herb teas and true teas (green, oolong, and white). Experts say that olive oil, green tea, and brightly colored fruits and vegetables have all been shown to reduce inflammation in cartilage in the spinal column, which helps to control back pain and stiffness.

Is it better to sit or lay down with lower back pain? ›

If you're experiencing back pain when sitting, your impulse may be to lie down and then try to slowly progress back to sitting, says Dr. Atlas. But this is the wrong approach. You should lie down to relieve the pain, but the goal should be not to return to sitting, but rather to regain your ability to stand and move.

What is the strongest natural anti-inflammatory? ›

1. Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids , which are abundant in fatty fish such as salmon or tuna, are among the most potent anti-inflammatory supplements. These supplements may help fight several types of inflammation, including vascular inflammation.

What is a better painkiller than ibuprofen? ›

Naproxen. Another anti-inflammatory drug, which works much like ibuprofen. Some studies show this may be a better choice than ibuprofen for people at risk for heart disease.

What is the strongest natural painkiller? ›

Endorphins are the body's natural pain relievers, and they can be as strong as many of the strongest pain relievers. Endorphins also help alleviate anxiety, stress and depression — conditions that often accompany and exacerbate chronic pain. The body produces endorphins during aerobic exercise.

Are there other anti inflammatories besides ibuprofen? ›

Nonspecific NSAIDs that are available over the counter in the United States include: high-dose aspirin. ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Midol) naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)

What drink kills inflammation? ›

Your diet, including what you drink, is important when it comes to controlling inflammation. Many drinks such as coffee, fruit and vegetable juices, green tea, hydrogen water, chlorella water, and milk have anti-inflammatory benefits. Inflammation is a natural way for your body to protect itself.

What kills inflammation in the body? ›

Load up on anti-inflammatory foods

Some of the best sources of omega-3s are cold water fish, such as salmon and tuna, and tofu, walnuts, flax seeds and soybeans. Other anti-inflammatory foods include grapes, celery, blueberries, garlic, olive oil, tea and some spices (ginger, rosemary and turmeric).

Is Honey an anti-inflammatory? ›

Therefore, honey, as it has anti-inflammatory activity, may contribute positively to the prevention of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases particularly in case honey mixed with other healthy foods.

What plant numbs pain? ›

The flowers of Spilanthes have earned it the name “toothache plant” for their numbing and pain-relieving effects. Spilanthes has also been noted to stimulate taste and improve saliva flow.

What is the safest painkiller of all? ›

Acetaminophen is considered the safest OTC painkiller for long-term use because it's thought to have fewer side effects than the other options.

What is the strongest over the counter inflammatory? ›

Naproxen (Aleve) is the most powerful anti-inflammatory pain reliever available without a prescription. It is especially effective for sprains, sunburns and arthritis and other conditions. Similar doses of Naproxen tend to last longer than other non-prescription pain relievers.

What pain reliever is safe for kidneys? ›

What analgesics are safe for people who have kidney disease? Acetaminophen remains the drug of choice for occasional use in patients with kidney disease because of bleeding complications that may occur when these patients use aspirin.

Is Turmeric an anti-inflammatory? ›

Turmeric has been used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory, to treat digestive and liver problems, skin diseases, and wounds. Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant.

Is Tylenol or ibuprofen better for inflammation? ›

As you may have guessed from the descriptions above, acetaminophen is best used for fever, aches and pains, but will not be very helpful if the pain is due to inflammation. Ibuprofen is more helpful for these symptoms when inflammation is the cause. Inflammation examples include menstrual cramps and arthritis.


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