Naproxen vs Paracetamol and Ibuprofen for Pain Relief
Written by: Hussain Abdeh MPharm: 2211840
Published on: 05/05/2021
Updated on: 28/05/2021
Managing Arthritis effectively can sometimes mean that you need a little medical assistance. Coping with unpleasant conditions like migraines and headaches, period pain and toothache may require a fast-acting pain relief medicine. Fortunately, these are readily available to buy online from Medicine Direct.
Three of the leading pain relief medicines in the UK are naproxen, paracetamol and ibuprofen. In this article, we look at the similarities and differences between these three medications. We will compare how and when they should be used, their availability and the potential side effects and precautions associated with each of them.
We will also detail which medicines are the most effective at providing pain relief from particular conditions.
What is Naproxen?
Naproxen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it is often used to reduce pain and inflammation in conditions that affect the joints and muscles, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Naproxen works by reducing the hormones that cause pain and inflammation which makes it an effective pain relief treatment.
However, it can also be taken to provide pain relief from period pain, back pain, and is generally more effective than paracetamol for these problems.
Read our medical guide to Naproxen for more information on what it treats and who can use it.
What is Paracetamol?
Paracetamol belongs to a class of drugs called analgesics and antipyretics. This medicine comes in various forms, including tablets, liquid and suppositories.
It is a very common painkiller that has the added benefit of being able to reduce a high temperature. This property means that it is incorporated into a lot of cold and flu remedies. Paracetamol is a particularly effective painkiller for the likes of migraines, headaches and stomach aches.
What is Ibuprofen?
Like naproxen, ibuprofen is also a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It also works to relieve pain in the same way as naproxen, reducing the pain and inflammation-causing hormones within the body.
In particular, ibuprofen is recommended as a pain relief medicine for problems like toothache, period pain and back pain.
Certain topical treatments contain ibuprofen as their active ingredient. When used in topical medicines, ibuprofen will get to work in the same way as an oral medicine, only it will target the specific areas it is applied to.
Can they be used together?
You should always take great care if you are planning to take more than one medicine at the same time. Read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication, which will list all known drug interactions. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are already taking any other prescription or non-prescription medicines before you start taking a new one.
Can I take Naproxen and Paracetamol at the same time?
Yes, Naproxen and Paracetamol can be taken together for a short period of time. Both Naproxen and Paracetamol belong to a different family of drugs and help ease pain in different ways, as a result; naproxen and paracetamol are safe to take at the same time.
Can I take Naproxen and Ibuprofen at the same time?
No, you cannot take Naproxen and Ibuprofen at the same time. Both medicines are very similar drugs, as such; you should not take them both at the same time.
Can I take Paracetamol and Ibuprofen at the same time?
Yes, paracetamol and ibuprofen can be taken at the same time. Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be particularly effective at treating pain and inflammation and are usually combined when both have failed to treat the condition as a single, standalone treatment. Combining the two treatments will usually help to ease mild to moderate pain more effectively.
Paracetamol can be combined with most painkillers, however it is essential that you do not combine paracetamol with any other medicine that already contains paracetamol.
How do Naproxen, Paracetamol and Ibuprofen compare?
Naproxen, paracetamol and ibuprofen all work to provide effective pain relief for conditions such as arthritis, but they are not all identical medicines and will each need to be taken in different ways. Even ibuprofen and naproxen, which are both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), vary quite significantly in terms of dosage, how frequently they should be taken and what forms the medicine is available in.
|Class of drug||Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID)||Analgesics and antipyretics||Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID)|
|What forms it comes in||Oral tablet, liquid gel-filled capsule||Tablets, caplets, capsules, liquid, soluble tablets, suppositories, injection (in hospital)||Oral tablet, chewable tablet, liquid oral drops, liquid oral suspension, liquid gel-filled capsule|
|How often to take it||Every 8-12 hours (in people over 12 years old)||Every 4-6 hours as required||Every 4-6 hours, as required (in people over 12 years old)|
|Time between use||8-12 hours||4 hours||4-6 hours depending on the dosage|
|Length of effect||8-12 hours||4-6 hours||4-6 hours|
|Maximum dose per day||660mg||4,000mg (Eight 500mg tablets)||1,200mg|
What are the side effects of using each medication?
All medicines come with the risk of side effects. You should always read the patient information leaflet for a complete list of side effects. Do not take the medicine if you know that you are allergic to any of the ingredients listed in the leaflet.
Paracetamol side effects
If taken as instructed, it is very unlikely that you will suffer any side effects from taking paracetamol. Very rarely, paracetamol can cause blood disorders like thrombocytopenia and leukopenia.
If you take high doses of paracetamol, it can cause serious liver or kidney damage. In some cases, this can be fatal.
When taken at the recommended dose, it can be taken by women who are pregnant and breastfeeding. Certain types of paracetamol can also be taken by children, such as liquid medicines.
Ibuprofen side effects
Ibuprofen can cause side effects such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
Serious side effects of ibuprofen are:
- Blood in your vomit or black stools
- Swollen ankles, blood in urine or not urinating at all
- Severe chest or stomach pain
- Asthma symptoms or breathing problems
You should speak to your doctor straight away if you notice any of these side effects.
Pregnant women should not take ibuprofen unless a doctor has specifically told them to do so. In most cases, paracetamol is the recommended medicine for managing pain during pregnancy.
Naproxen side effects
Common side effects of naproxen include:
- Changes in vision
- Ringing in the ears
The following side effects are serious. Seek medical attention straight away if you get any of the below:
- Fainting, breathlessness, chest pain
- High temperature, nausea or vomiting, headache, confusion, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light
- Vomiting blood or dark particles that resemble coffee grounds, blood in your faeces, black, tarry stools
- Persistent sore throat, nose bleeds and infections
- Severe indigestion, stomach pain, nausea or vomiting, diarrhoea, heartburn
- Irregular, slow heartbeats
- High temperature, stomach pain, vomiting
- Blood in urine, nausea or vomiting, urinating less
- Fainting, chest pain, breathlessness
Children can take Naproxen, but only when it has been prescribed by a doctor.
Naproxen is not normally recommended for women who are pregnant (especially if they are 30 weeks or more) or breastfeeding. You should only use this medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding if your doctor has advised you to do so.
For a comprehensive guide on Naproxen side effects, read our medical guide.
Naproxen tablets are available to buy on prescription and over the counter (in lower doses) either in tablet form or as a liquid. You do not need a prescription to buy naproxen to ease period pain; in this instance you can just buy it from a pharmacy. Feminax Ultra provides effective pain relief from period pain and menstrual cramps. These tablets contain naproxen as the active ingredient and can be bought from Medicine Direct’s online pharmacy without needing a prescription.
Paracetamol 500mg tablets are available to buy over the counter. This medicine is contained in a wide range of pain relief products, including cold and flu remedies like Day and Night Nurse capsules. Medicine Direct stocks generic Paracetamol, which does not require a prescription. It is available over the counter in supermarkets and pharmacies.
You do not need a prescription to purchase ibuprofen 400mg & 600mg tablets. This everyday painkiller is available over the counter in pharmacies and supermarkets. Ibuprofen also comes available as a topical gel that can be used to ease the likes of back pain, joint and muscle pain and sprains and strains. Ibuprofen Gel and Ibuleve Gel (which contains ibuprofen) can be bought from Medicine Direct without a prescription.