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Pain and management

Acetaminophen Vs Ibuprofen to Treat Headache. Better One?

Ibuprofen vs Acetaminophen To treat Headache You may be living with debilitating headaches, migraines or chronic pains. Headache is so common that it seems to be a natural though an unpleasant part of life. You may have tried different traditional as well as usual treatment option however here we will look into the pharmacological treatments of headaches.

Common Pain killers Prescribed For Headache

Most of these medications are over-the counter and are available without a doctor’s prescription. Drugs used commonly for the relief of headache symptoms are listed below:

· Acetaminophen (Paracetamol) (Tylenol)

· Aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin, Ecotrin)

· Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, Nuprin)

· Flurbiprofen (Ansaid)

· Naproxen (Aleve)

· Diclofenac (Cataflam)

· Metaxalone (Skelaxin)

Ibuprofen Vs Paracetamol

Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen (also called Paracetamol) are the most common drugs used for the treatment of headache. Ibuprofen is thought to be more effective than acetaminophen. This impression is reinforced by the clinical practice parameters. For instance you get a headache and you go to your doctor. Guess what will he prescribe you? Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen? He can prescribe you any one of them but most of the time physicians prescribe Ibuprofen as it is considered to be more potent.

Research has been done but there is little evidence to demonstrate the superiority of one over the other. Some of the studies that you may find interesting are listed below.

Packman B, Packman E and Doyle G (2000) conducted a randomized control trial in patients with moderate to severe tension headache. They provided some of the patients with 400 mg Ibuprofen and some of the patients with 1000mg of acetaminophen. They found that the patients treated with Ibuprofen had a faster first perceptible relief and the longer period of meaningful relief time as compared to those who used acetaminophen.

In another trial, Hoppu K and Valkeila E studied the effect of ibuprofen and acetaminophen in children aged 4-18 years with moderate to severe migraine. They divided the children randomly into two groups. They provided with 10mg/kg of ibuprofen to the first 40 kids and 15mg/kg of acetaminophen to the remaining 41 kids. They used a visual analogue system to evaluate the outcome. It was found that 68% of children who were on Ibuprofen had a reduction in headache intensity by at least 2 grades as compared to 54% of those on acetaminophen (CJEM , 2010)

Harris N, Wenzel R, Thomas S conducted another study to compare the efficacy of acetaminophen and ibuprofen for the treatment of high altitude headache. They selected 74 patients, and randomly divided them into two groups. One of the groups was given 400mg of ibuprofen and the other was given 1000 mg of acetaminophen. After sometime, individuals of both groups were asked to rate the severity of their headache on visual analogue scales. They didn’t notice any significant difference in the severity of headache both groups. (J of Emergency Medicine, 2003)

Another study suggested that concurrent use of both Paracetamol and Ibuprofen has better effects to treat post operative dental pain as compared to any of them alone.


Even though the notion that Ibuprofen is more effective than acetaminophen for the treatment of headaches, there is not enough scientific evidence to support to label this belief as absolutely true. Regardless of the drug you use to relieve the symptoms of your headache, you must keep following precautions in your mind

You must talk your doctor before taking acetaminophen if you have any liver or kidney disease

You must talk to your doctor before taking ibuprofen if you have bleeding problems, asthma, ulcers, kidney or liver disease.


  1. Comparison of the analgesic efficacy of concurrent ibuprofen and paracetamol with ibuprofen or paracetamol alone in the management of moderate to severe acute postoperative dental pain in adolescents and adults: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, single-dose, two-center, modified factorial study, Mehlisch DR, Aspley S, Daniels SE, Bandy DP , D.R. Mehlisch & Associates, Palm Desert, California 92211, USA., 2010
  2. Paracetamol. Accessed on 4, 2013


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