Anti-Inflammatory Drugs and Tylenol for Your Neck or Back

Deciding on an Over the Counter Pain Medication

Anti-inflammatory drugs, for example, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a very common type of over the counter pain medication.  

But actually, two types of over the counter pain medication exist -- the above-mentioned (NSAIDs), which includes Advil (Ibuprofen), for example, and drugs with acetaminophen as the active ingredient. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in  Tylenol.

NSAIDs are a group of drugs that work similarly to one another to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. There is no one "right" NSAID for back pain -- you may need to try a few before you can identify the best choice for you. 

Tylenol, on the other hand, relieves pain but does not reduce inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory or not, all over the counter pain medications for back or neck pain offer both risks and benefits. Deciding on which to take depends on your individual health picture.


OTC Pain Meds
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The active ingredient in aspirin has helped to relieve pain for centuries. As an NSAID, aspirin not only reduces back or neck pain, it also plays a role in containing the inflammation itself.

Aspirin works by holding back the production of prostaglandins, short-lived chemicals in the body that are responsible for inflammation and pain.

Believe it or not, aspirin can have serious side effects, although this is rare for most people. Side effects of aspirin might include stomach problems.

As with any drug, it pays to be informed about aspirin, including how to store it, when to take it, when to stop taking it and how it works to relieve pain.



Tylenol is the most frequently used pain reliever on the market. It can be taken for short-term relief when you have mild or moderate back or neck pain.

Tylenol helps muscle-related back pain and/or arthritis. It may work by reducing the amount of the brain chemical that excites pain signals, thereby, affecting the central nervous system. It also exerts a cooling effect by inhibiting the prostaglandins that play a role in the brain's heat-regulating center.

But if you have liver problems, or if you consume a lot of alcohol, you should tread carefully when it comes to Tylenol. It is very easy to take too much of this drug, which may then result in serious or fatal liver toxicity.



Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory drug that some people take to reduce pain, tenderness, swelling and stiffness (often experienced by people with arthritis.) Ibuprofen is also used to alleviate muscle aches and calm pain due to back strain.

Like aspirin, ibuprofen is an NSAID, which means it not only reduces back or neck pain but plays a role in containing the process of  (inflammation) itself.

Anti-inflammatory drugs with ibuprofen as their active ingredient inhibit the production of prostaglandins, and therefore inflammation and pain.

Side effects may include stomach problems and cardiovascular events. 

As with any pain medication, it pays to be informed about how and when to take it, when to stop taking it and how it works to relieve pain.



Aleve is an NSAID that can be used to relieve pain and decrease inflammation. Naproxen, its active ingredient, can also be obtained via prescription. Research shows that naproxen is effective in reducing the pain, tenderness, swelling and stiffness experienced by people with both inflammatory and non-inflammatory arthritis. This includes osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

People with back pain can also use Aleve for muscle strain and similar ailments.

As with the other anti-inflammatory drugs, Aleve works largely by inhibiting the formation of prostaglandins.

As an NSAID, side effects of Aleve could include stomach problems and cardiovascular events, both of which could be very serious.


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