JSYK: You’re probs taking the wrong meds to treat your period cramps. (I know, ns know). Yet considering the myriad that OTC alternatives on the market, choose Tylenol, Midol, Aleve, or every little thing your coworker pulls the end from your desk, it can be tough to understand the difference in between what actually functions for your body and also what’s high-key harmful.

What I mean by at sight harmful? Well, some OTC meds could hold-up your relief, aggravate your stomach, and/or chip far at your irreversible health, says Kimberly Sackheim, DO, a pain monitoring specialist in ~ NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation.

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So, yes, consider this a authorize you need to 1) stop taking those random, unidentifiable pills chilling in the bottom that your work bag as soon as a painful duration hit and 2) actually know the difference between acetaminophen and, well, everything else.

First, let"s start with the two alternatives for OTC pain relief: acetaminophen, aka Tylenol, and also NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are all over-the-counter painkillers other than acetaminophen. Let"s dive into each one.


Acetaminophen targets the locations of the brain responsible for handling pain and body temperature, says Dr. Sackheim. Except cramps, if you"re experiencing from a fever, taking acetaminophen together directed will execute you a solid. But it won"t minimize inflammation in, say, a sprained ankle. Make sense? Good.

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Now, it"s important to note that acetaminophen poses special risks due to the fact that it"s damaged down by the liver (and can seriously damage it), which is the an essential organ the filters out toxins consisting of alcohol. That method that you need to never ever chase acetaminophen v booze, which might stress the end of the liver and contribute to irreversible damage for this reason.

The great thing is that it doesn’t mess through your tummy, therefore it"s the relocate when you want to treat period cramps accompanied by an upset stomach, which have the right to go hand-in-hand with PMS because, well, life isn"t fair. Simply mind your dosage.

Ob-gyn Tamika K. Cross, MD, recommends starting with the lowest feasible dose to treat symptoms. “Dose in milligrams not the amount of pills, due to the fact that the quantity of pills someone takes is dependence on how numerous milligrams the pill is.” her suggestion: 325 come 500 milligrams.

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According come the American university of Obstetricians and also Gynecologists (ACOG), NSAIDs space the ideal defense versus painful cramps. (Some studies have found these drugs can actually lighten super-heavy bleeding much better than placebo — simply not and also hormonal bear control, for this reason don’t gain too excited.)

But NSAIDs provide relief through chilling the end the nerve end that procedure pain. NSAIDs encompass ibuprofen (found in Advil and also Motrin), naproxen (found in Aleve), celecoxib (aka Celebrex), and also aspirin. Lock don"t encompass acetaminophen or multiple-symptom medications that save it, favor DayQuil, Midol, and Excedrin.

Unlike acetaminophen, NSAIDs alleviate inflammation to minimize joint and also muscle pain. And also because NSAIDs space metabolized through the kidneys, castle pose no dangers to the liver whatsoever.

That said, NSAIDs deserve to suppress an enzyme the protects the lining that the stomach, possibly triggering mountain reflux, general stomach upset, and GI bleeding or ulcers, claims Dr. Cross. It’s one factor why friend shouldn’t drink alcohol, one more stomach irritant, prior to or after acquisition any OTC painkiller.

NSAIDs additionally thin her blood, i beg your pardon slows blood clotting and reduces the risk of heart attack and also stroke. (It’s not a negative perk regardless of even if it is these problems are peak of mind.) However, due to the fact that of the blood-thinning effects, you should likewise be mindful if you have actually clotting obstacle or if you’re freshly the end of surgery or top top anticoagulants,” claims Dr. Cross.” Opt for prescription drug Celecoxib if this is the case (more on this below).

Here is a more in-depth watch at her NSAID options:

Aspirin, which is most likely to irritate her stomach and also won’t necessarily execute the trick as soon as the battle is real: “A the majority of patients call me that ibuprofen or naproxen works better than aspirin for duration cramps,” Dr. Sackheim says. In various other words, it"s much from your finest option. Ibuprofen, which can properly put you the end of her misery, assuming her kidneys are fully functioning and you don’t have a specifically sensitive stomach. Simply be certain to take it through food to prevent any kind of issues. Naproxen, favor ibuprofen, is considered highly effective. Because naproxen can carry out some sweet relief that’s much longer lasting than other over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, it"s particularly an excellent for cramps that last all freaking day, follow to Dr. Sackheim. Celecoxib, the medicine you’ve probably never heard of due to the fact that it’s typically linked with arthritis relief and easily accessible only by prescription. Yet if her PMS tends to cause cramps and, while acquisition too lot celecoxib (i.e., multiple doses every work of the month) deserve to ultimately reason stomach ulcers too, the formula is much less likely than various other NSAIDs to block enzyme protecting your stomach. It"s why celecoxib usually goes much easier on her insides — a great thing at the onset of her period, as soon as your body frequently needs part extra TLC. Plus, if you do have actually a coagulation disorder, celecoxib has more minimal impacts on platelet duty and have to be thought about for those who have clotting disorders, proposal Dr. Cross.


If you end up dealing with cramps with whatever’s sitting in your medication cabinet, be sure you"re proactively paying fist to the dose of the OTC med the you"re taking, suggests Dr. Cross. "It’s important that patients aren’t taking more than 3,000 mg of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period, i beg your pardon is why it"s crucial to remember when taking one unlabeled pill from a friend or coworker."

And pay attention to the ingredients of her OTC meds—especially for things like Midol and Excedrin (since both medications contain acetaminophen in them, and you should be mindful around how much you"re consuming), suggests Dr. Cross.

Otherwise, “if you have actually side effects, girlfriend won"t know what caused them, and if you feeling better, you want to understand what helped,” states Dr. Sackheim.

Lastly, if her cramps space really bad and you notice that you have to take a the majority of over the respond to medication because that relief, "you have to see your clinical provider and discuss your choices for pain control," argues ob-gyn heather Irobunda, MD.