Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen are used to treat many of the same symptoms such as headache or muscle pain. Acetaminophen is sold under the brand name Tylenol and and ibuprofen is sold under the brand name Advil. Many have a preference when considering Tylenol vs Advil due to the fact that each drug has differing side effects. The largest difference between acetaminophen and ibuprofen is that acetaminophen is not a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) while ibuprofen is. Many users report feeling a greater effect of one of these medications for the reduction of pain but preference varies between individuals as everyone's body reacts differently to different medications.
Benefits of ibuprofen
The largest benefit of taking Ibuprofen is due to it being a NSAID. As it is an NSAID it promotes the release of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins enter the blood stream and help to reduce pain at the sight of the injury. Prostaglandins also help significantly to lower amounts of inflammation and swelling. Acetaminophen is not as effect at reducing muscle pain or inflammation as ibuprofen is. For this reason ibuprofen is the preferred medication to take for muscle related injuries as it will work to actively reduce swelling while acetaminophen will not. Ibuprofen has also been found to be better at treating arthritis than acetaminophen as well. This is also due to ibuprofen's release of prostaglandins and activity as an anti-inflammatory agent. The reason that ibuprofen is more effective than acetaminophen at reducing pain in those suffering from arthritis is that those with arthritis often have swelling in their joints which is lessened by ibuprofen but not acetaminophen. Another benefit incurred by taking ibuprofen over acetaminophen is that ibuprofen is not as hard on the liver as acetaminophen. Prolonged use of acetaminophen is more likely to lead to liver disease than prolonged use of ibuprofen. Due to acetaminophen's effects upon the liver it is also easier to overdose on than ibuprofen.
Benefits of acetaminophen
One of the biggest benefits taking acetaminophen over ibuprofen has it that acetaminophen does not cause nearly as much stomach or gastrointestinal distress as ibuprofen does. This makes acetaminophen the drug of choice for those with sensitive stomachs or with previous stomach problems such as ulcers. Acetaminophen is also better at treating a fever than ibuprofen is. This is due to the fact that acetaminophen functions in an entirely different manner than ibuprofen on a biological level. Acetaminophen acts entirely on the central nervous system and causes the brain to not feel as much of the pain being experienced by deadening the neural signals associated with pain. For this reason acetaminophen is often used in conjunction with more powerful pain medications such as opiates as it has been found to produce a sort of synergy in reducing moderate and severe pain when combined with these types of medications.
When to take ibuprofen vs. acetaminophen
Due to their difference in effects it is more beneficial to take ibuprofen for muscle pain or when inflammation is experienced. Acetaminophen is best to take for headaches or mild forms of pain. Acetaminophen is often preferred for use by children due to the fact that it has less adverse reactions on the gastrointestinal system than ibuprofen has.