Paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used to treat mild pain. These types of drugs are excellent at relieving certain types of pain, such as bone pain, muscle pain, and pain in the skin or the lining of the mouth.
They can also be used with stronger pain medicines to help relieve moderate to severe pain.
Paracetamol is a common drug that comes in many different formulations and is known by various brand names such as Panadol and Panamax.
It’s recommended that an adult have no more than 4 g of paracetamol a day (usually 8 tablets) unless approved by their doctor. The dose limit for children depends on their age and weight, so check with the doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Some combination pain relievers, such as Panadeine Forte®, contain paracetamol and count towards your total intake. If taken within the recommended dose, paracetamol is unlikely to cause side effects. In some cases, taking paracetamol together with other pain medicines, such as oxycodone, helps them work better.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, celecoxib, diclofenac and aspirin, vary in dose, frequency of dose and side effects.
You can have these medicines as a tablet or injection. Less commonly, NSAIDs are given as a suppository – a capsule inserted into the rectum.
Some NSAIDs are available over-the-counter from pharmacies without a prescription.
Side effects of NSAIDs
The following may occur in some people:
- indigestion or stomach ulcers
- risk of bleeding in the stomach or intestines
- reduction in kidney function
- heart (cardiac) problems – especially with long-term use or in people who already have cardiac problems.
Talk to your doctor or nurse before taking NSAIDs, especially if you have had stomach ulcers, heart disease, kidney disease or gut reflux, are having chemotherapy or are taking other medicines (such as anticoagulants/blood thinners like warfarin) that also increase your risk of bleeding.
It’s generally recommended that you take ibuprofen with food to lower the risk of indigestion. You may be given other medicine that is less likely to cause indigestion and bleeding, such as celecoxib (another type of NSAID) or paracetamol.