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Anti-inflammatories: Anti-inflammatory medications can decrease pain in two different ways. The first way is by directly relieving the pain. All of us have taken them for a headache, sore back, etc. They work well.  Studies have consistently shown that they are equivalent to lower potency narcotics such as Tylenol and may be even more effective.  A recent study of 336 children with arm fractures showed that the failure rate for pain control was 30% with codeine and only 20% with the anti-inflammatory ibuprofen.  In addition, the patients had more undesirable side effects with the codeine.  Both parents and their children were more satisfied with the ibuprofen. (5)

The second mode of pain relief for anti-inflammatories is by decreasing inflammation, which is a much different process than direct pain relief.  It takes a sustained pharmacological dose for two to three weeks before the inflammation goes down. Even missing a day will markedly diminish the effectiveness of the drug. Most patients are not diligent in taking the meds in this way, so it is difficult for physicians to take advantage of the anti-inflammatory properties.

Examples of anti-inflammatories include:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Naprosyn (Aleve)
  • Indocin
  • Relafin


Tylenol is an effective pain reliever but there are drawbacks.  It has a predictable effect of causing kidney and/or liver failure if you take too much.  It is recommended not to exceed four grams per day. And be careful — there are so many medications that have Tylenol as an ingredient, it is easy to exceed this dose.