Can Acetaminophen and NSAIDs Be Taken Together?

Safe Use of Pain Relievers

Hand desperately reaching for pills.
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People with arthritis, in an attempt to relieve pain and other symptoms, often take NSAIDs and over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen. Is it appropriate to take acetaminophen and NSAIDs together?

The short answer is yes—you can take an NSAID and acetaminophen together. That said, caution must still be used. NSAIDS can damage the kidneys and cause gastrointestinal bleeding if taken at high doses or for a long period of time.

Acertaminophen is metabolized in the liver. Prolonged use or excessive use of acetaminophen can result in liver failure.

So, while the drugs are not without risks, they are considered safe and effective when taken according to directions and as prescribed by your doctor. NSAIDs reduce inflammation. Acetaminophen is taken as a pain reliever.

When Is the Combination a Bad Idea?

If you have renal (kidney) or hepatic (liver) disease, you should ask your doctor about taking acetaminophen and NSAIDs together. Also, it's typically best practice to take the lowest dose of a drug that garners the desired therapeutic effect. By taking the lowest dose, you reduce the risk of unwanted side effects.

Of more concern than taking an NSAID and acetaminophen together is taking two different NSAIDs together which is absolutely not allowed. One NSAID at a time is appropriate use of the drug. If you are switching to a different NSAID, the one you had been taking must be stopped.

With regard to acetaminophen, the cumulative dose is the major concern. Many people don't realize that acetaminophen can be an ingredient in over-the-counter cold and sinus remedies, as well as an ingredient in some narcotic medications. You must be aware of how much acetaminophen you are consuming in a day, with all products added together.

More About NSAIDs and Acetaminophen

10 Things You Should Know About Tylenol / Acetaminophen
Safe use of Tylenol (acetaminophen) decreases the risk of undesirable side effects. Safety warnings about Tylenol should be respected.

NSAIDs - 10 Things You Need to Know
NSAIDs have been used to treat arthritis for more than 30 years. NSAIDs have anti-inflammatory, analgesic (painkilling), and antipyretic (fever-reducing) properties.

Acetaminophen - Cumulative Effect Can Cause Acute Liver Failure
Though labels of products containing acetaminophen disclose how much of the ingredient is in the product, some people put themselves at risk by not keeping track of their total daily intake of acetaminophen.

What Is Extra Strength Tylenol?
Extra strength Tylenol is a popular over-the-counter medication used to relieve pain, including arthritis pain. How is extra strength Tylenol different from regular strength Tylenol or Tylenol Arthritis Pain?

What Is Tylenol Arthritis Pain?
Tylenol Arthritis Pain is a popular over-the-counter medication used to, as its name suggests, relieve arthritis pain. How is Tylenol Arthritis Pain different from regular strength Tylenol or extra strength Tylenol?


Buescher JJ et al.

Do acetaminophen and an NSAID combined relieve osteoarthritis pain better than either alone? Journal of Family Practice June 2004.

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