Aspirin? Acetaminophen? Ibuprofen? Naproxen?
Many people merely stick with what their parents used when they were children. But that may not be the best idea.
Andy Ledford, pharmacist at St. Simons Drugs on St. Simons Island, says that individuals should find the medication that works best for them.
"These medicines provide the public with relief of mild to moderate pain from minor injuries and things like arthritis. In recommended doses they have a good safety record in the general adult population," he said.
"These products are helpful for most people. Different people get better relief of pain from one medicine over another. Be sure to stick to recommended doses and find one that does best for an individual."
Ledford stresses that a person should consult a doctor for any prolonged or intense pain.
"This depends on where the pain is and the severity. If the injury is a joint sprain/strain or muscle strain, a person should also be aware of the degree of swelling or bruising," he said.
"Most over-the-counter pain medicines only recommend short-term use without consulting a doctor. People with chronic diseases or conditions should consult their doctor or pharmacist."
Among over-the-counter choices, here is what is available, with common product names in parentheses:
AspirinThe active ingredient in aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid. It works by inhibiting several of the chemical processes that cause pain and inflammation. By inhibiting production of chemicals called prostaglandins, aspirin works to diminish the body's response to a chain of chemical processes that create pain. "This can be hard on the stomach. It's good to take (aspirin) with food," Ledford said. Aspirin is good as a fever reducer and may also be used for headaches and muscle aches. Low-dose 81-milligram aspirin has gained almost mythical proportions for reducing the risk of heart attacks. The standard advice is to talk to a doctor before beginning an aspirin regime. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Acetaminophen relieves pain by elevating the pain threshold, so that a person does not notice pain below that threshold. It reduces fever by acting on the heat-regulating center of the brain. "Acetaminophen is the easiest on the stomach," Ledford said. "You should avoid alcohol with this. Adhere to the maximum dose of eight extra-strength (500 milligram) doses in 24 hours or two tablets four times a day," Ledford said. You shouldn't take this drug if you've had liver disease or a history of alcoholism. Consider using Acetaminophen for headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, colds, fever and menstrual cramping.