RN Advice: Hot Mess Pain-Relief

Posted on August 3, 2013 by


peggi bw 2 editedWhile I rarely get headaches, I have experienced migraines.  I will admit that this is one physical pain that I have very little tolerance for and want to nip it right away.  If I catch it early, I can prevent the nausea, vomiting and overall sick feeling that can lay me up for hours.  But I have often wondered which over the counter (OTC) pain is best for me?  Which one will work the fastest, and yet will interfere the least with fat loss?

OTC pain relievers are usually bucketed into 3 different categories.

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Feverall, Anacin Aspirin Free, Pamprin)
  • NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs such as Ibuprofen,  Advil, Motrin, Naproxen, Aleve)
  • Aspirin (also classified as an NSAID but will be discussed separately)

Acetaminophen is a widely available, starts to work rather quickly, and is shorter acting, usually dosed every 4 hours.  It works well on fevers, mild aches and pains, however has no anti-inflammatory properties.

NSAIDs are dosed every 6-8 hours and also work well on fevers, aches, and pains.  This class of medication has additional anti-inflammatory properties which mean they are great for swelling and joint pain related to arthritis.

Aspirin seems to be a forgotten drug that has been on the market forever.  It has all of the properties and uses as the other NSAIDs but also ‘thins the blood’ or prevents blood clot formation.   Aspirin starts working as soon as it is placed in the mouth and is dosed depending on its intended use.

All are metabolized by the liver and excreted through the kidneys however acetaminophen is known to be very toxic to the liver if not taken as directed or if there are any other health issues.  While NSAIDs, including aspirin, are not known to cause liver toxicity, they can cause stomach upset and bleeding if not taken with food or are taken at high doses.  Aspirin is unique in that it begins breaking down with saliva and continues breaking down as it moves through the body having mostly metabolized prior to reaching the liver.

While ibuprofen has previously been my preferred method of pain relief, the next time I feel the hot burning sensation of a pounding headache brewing, I will drink 2 large glasses of water, rest and reach for aspirin to  keep my liver involvement to a minimal.

Peggi Ingram RN BSN, CPT
Posted in: RN Advice