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Is aspirin a good anti-inflammatory for me?

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aspirin or ibuprofenChoosing an oral pain reliever can be so confusing when there are so many different types and brands on the market now days. It is important to know what you are taking and why.

Aspirin and ibuprofen belong to a large class of NSAIDs ( non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). The difference between NSAIDs and Acetaminophen has to do with the way each relieves pain. Acetaminophen works in the brain and blocks pain messages, which also helps reduce fever. This can help relieve headaches and minor aches and pains but it is not as effective in reducing pain caused from inflammation in the body.

NSAIDs help with inflammation in the body by reducing the level of prostaglandins, the chemical that causes inflammation in the body. Taking NSAIDs will lead to less swelling and pain in a given area where inflammation causing chemicals have built up. At one time aspirin was the only over-the-counter NSAID available but now low doses of ibuprofen and naproxen are available with or without prescriptions.

Some pain pills, like Excedrin Migraine combine the NSAID aspirin with acetaminophen, which will act as a fever reducer, while also reducing inflammation. Celebrex is commonly prescribed to older adults because it is in a class of COX-2 inhibitors which will relieve pain like an NSAID but is supposed to be less likely to cause stomach problems. For this reason, Celebrex is said to be safe to take for an extended period of time.

From my own personal experience Bayer aspirin was the fastest acting NSAID for acute inflammation I once had in my shoulder. Fortunately I had no stomach pain, but that is not always the case. Always check with your doctor before taking aspirin or acetaminophen to be aware if it will interfere with any other drugs you may be on.

Contributed by Krista Magnoli, PTA and Nancy Whelan, PT @ The Physical Therapy Center in West Palm Beach, FLorida.

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