Ibuprofen vs. Acetaminophen

November 28, 2001

When you reach for a pain reliever, it’s usually whatever happens to be sitting in your dance bag. But depending on your aches and pains, using the right one can make a big difference. Doctors say acetaminophen (Tylenol) is best for headaches and joint pain, but also does the trick for cold symptoms, like a sore throat. (If you’re already on cold medicines, keep in mind that many include the drug.) Ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) is best when you’re dealing with regular muscle soreness or back aches, as well as menstrual cramps. It’s also better at combating fever.

If you’re injured, the rules are a bit trickier. With an ankle sprain, for instance, researchers have found that inflammation might be key to a quick recovery. That means you should start with Tylenol and after 48 hours, switch to an anti-inflammatory like Advil.

When possible, alternate ibuprofen and acetaminophen. It’s safer for your body and will help prevent you from building up an immunity to either one. And always take the smallest dosage for the least amount of time. Taking too much of either of these drugs can cause stomach problems.