Save Yourself Some Money and Pain by Choosing the Right Pain Reliever

We all have the occasional (and sometimes frequent) aches and pains. Whether it is a headache, sore muscles or aching joints we generally take some sort of over the counter pain reliever. But are all pain relievers created equal? Hardly. By understanding what pain reliever works best for your specific ailment you can save money by only buying the one that works best and also reduce your suffering more effectively.

1. Advil (Ibuprofen) – This common pain reliever works best to soothe general muscle soreness and minor joint pain. This includes areas such as your back, legs and arms. A typical dose works effectively over a 4-8 hour period. Care should be taken if you take the maximum dosage for three weeks as it can affect the kidneys.

2. Tylenol (Acetaminophen) – Works especially well for headaches, toothaches and minor muscle pain. Some brands of Tylenol use additives of other pain relievers to focus on specific types of pain as well. One thing to consider with Acetaminophen is that it may damage the liver with excessive use or the combination of significant alcohol consumption.

3. Aleve (Naproxen) – This anti-inflammatory pain reliever works especially well on joint pain, arthritis and abdominal cramps. An interesting side effect of this drug is how it increases sensitivity to sunlight. If you are taking Naproxen care should be used in protecting the skin while outdoors.

4. Bayer (Aspirin) – Aspirin works best for dull pain and reducing fever and has also been proven to help prevent heart disease and strokes over the long-term. This drug can be cause problems with people who have sensitive stomachs.

As you can see, each of the four primary over the counter pain relievers all have something they do best. I know for many people, myself included, that just pick one pain reliever and throw it in medicine cabinet and use it for all types of pain. This doesn’t mean that everyone should go out and buy a bottle of each, but you should examine what type of pain you have most frequently and see if you are using the correct one. Not only could this save you a few bucks, but you may actually find more effective ways to relieve your pain.

Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle

My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.


Whichever you use, don't forget to submit it to your flexible spending account for reimbursement.


It isn't so much as medical advice as highlighting what they do best as can be seen from the brand's website or visiting wikipedia. They do all have some similarities as you mentioned, but still work more effectively in certain areas than others.

So just like any financial advice here, every situation is different and you should check with your financial/tax advisor before acting upon anything, and you should also check with your doctor before taking any medication.

Thanks for reminding me to give a little disclaimer. This is just a guide so that people can take a look at their own situation and see if there is a better option available.


I'd caution against giving medical advice without a medical degree. You say that naproxen is an anti-inflammatory, but in reality all of those OTC meds you list are anti-inflammatory. Both acetominaphen and asprin work well for fevers.

Also, everyone reacts differently to these medications, so a little trial and error usually can ferret out which is most efficacious, but of course only take one at a time!